Opening up e-resources

Digitisation breathes new life into collections, making them accessible beyond their physical location. Four real world examples highlight how digitisation opens up collections.

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Digitisation - new life for collections

Breathing new life into collections by turning them into e-resources is a topic of great interest in the library and information world. So many objects can be digitised and made available to an ever-increasing range of people. When these resources are added to the Internet, they become accessible well beyond a restricted physical location.

Digitising enables us to see and hear things we would otherwise overlook or never be aware of in the first place. The questions for information professionals revolve around how, why and what to digitise. Four speakers at Internet Librarian International gave delegates a solid foundation in digitisation by sharing their stories about their experiences.


Eleanor Kenny began the session by talking about some of Europeana's experiences with digitisation. Europeana includes digitised books, paintings, photographs, recordings and films from over 2,200 contributing cultural heritage organisations across Europe. She pointed out that some institutions fear making their digitised collections freely available on the web because they might lose income or they might lose the benefits of attribution. The counter argument is that it increases engagement; it's part of the public mission of the institution; and it brings in new users.

One thing that is particularly striking about what Europeana is doing is its copyright stance. It has put in a waiver so that its descriptive metadata for more than 20 million cultural objects now fall under the terms of the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication (CC0). With CC0, the metadata is available for anyone to use in whatever way they choose. Opening up data in this way is a very important precedent for cultural heritage organisations.

Speaking about the demand for its electronic collection, Kenny reported that, when Europeana put its pictures up on Flickr, it found that Flickr attracted vastly more views than the pictures on its own website.

Disseminating music digitally

Moving from cultural heritage to music (both modern and traditional), Esben Fjord of the Gladsaxe (Denmark) Public Library described the library's use of Spotify to disseminate music online. He sees an inherent difference between the commercial world and libraries. The former sees libraries' digital services as a competitive threat, while the latter believes it is their right to control digital resources as a service to the public.

He showed how the library mashes up music and video, delivering it to special chairs within the library. Playlists of music, an example was '1960s hippie music', coupled with Spotify apps and Spotify play buttons, displayed on touch screens, lead to the dissemination of digital music.

What is needed going forward, according to Fjord, are tools that can support not only digital dissemination, but also digital acquisition and filtering. He would like to see more open data and more understanding of the filter bubble. Libraries, in his view, should pay more attention to the design of physical spaces, even as many library resources migrate to digital. We still need to make people aware of what the library can provide. Even more important, information professionals need a new mindset, one that celebrates filtering rather than collection and relations rather than transactions.

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