Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Closing Post

This blog will no longer be updated after today.  The blog served as a way to track progress during the developmental states of the PDHC. It will remain up for reference. 

Thank you. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

CLA Conference 2011 here we come!

We'll be presenting the PDHC project inside and out at the California Library Association Conference in Pasadena this coming Sunday, November 13th at 10:30am. We will be part of a panel titled "Re-imagine, Re-invent, and Re-discover Local History" and will be co-presenting with those behind the City of Rancho Cucamonga's Portal to the Past project.

Needless to say, we are excited and more will be posted here to document how it goes!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

Given that the PDHC is now nearly a year old, it seemed like a good time to reflect on the lessons and successes of the past and the possibilities of the future.  The latter was my main focus when I facilitated the most recent general meeting. I aimed to have the mission, goals, and growth plan nailed down by the end of it so I could complete the policy manual and the collaboration could have something to guide them by the time I finished my internship. There was a lot to accomplish, so I wanted to keep people on task, but I also knew that conversations about deeper issues need a bit of time to wander.
As a way to balance these concerns, I started by asking everyone to brainstorm all the things they did, wanted to do, or felt like they should be doing. After a few minutes, there were around 30 items. I asked them to rank them in terms of importance (low, medium, or high), but quickly realized that nothing was seen as being of “low” importance, so I switched tactics and had them each choose the top 5 most important things.
“Some of these kind of go together,” someone commented. “Can we cheat?”
“Sure,” I said. (Compromise is important.)
“And after this,” Roberta Martinez joked, “we all get to be called Sophie.”
Trends emerged as we tallied the items most people considered priorities: grant writing, digitization/metadata, partnering, creating a fuller Pasadena history, increasing the number of collections, exposing new documents to the public, education, outreach, and sustainability. So what did this mean in terms of a mission and goals? What did it look like, specifically, in terms of adding new partners?
The discussions that emerged as people discussed partners revealed a fundamental difference of opinion as to the primary goal of the collaboration: was it to promote and host photos and materials that were already digitized (to act as publishers) or to train people and institutions with smaller collections in digitization (to nurture new collections)?
Each side had a legitimate point. Given that everyone is already fitting the collaboration in around their normal job, it seems a bit much to ask them to devote hours to someone with “a shoebox full of photos.” But if they only entered already digitized photos into the database, wouldn’t that favor only larger institutions and leave out much of the richness and diversity of Pasadena’s history? Many people felt this point keenly and wanted to take on more responsibility for ensuring that the history of smaller institutions and ordinary people were also preserved. They tossed out various ideas for different types of training programs through Pasadena City College, workshops, and outreach programs. Others questioned whether that was the most efficient use of time, given the time and money constraints we already faced.
Finally, I asked, “Is this level of support something we can offer with the resources we already have?”
“No,” everyone conceded.
“What would we need in order to get to where we could do that?”
Funding was the immediate answer. But funding for what, specifically? After some discussion, everyone seemed to concur that the money was most needed for a full-time project coordinator and for training in digitization for smaller institutions.  “Everything else, we can do without the money,” Laura Verlaque pointed out. “We do that already.”
The compromise, then, was to focus for the first year on entering pre-digitized collections from larger institutions into the database while also seeking grant funding for digitization training programs. Someone noted that this focus would give us a better shot at obtaining grants, since previous grant applications had suffered from a scattered sense of purpose. The long-term goal was to establish a city-wide digitization center to help digitize and preserve Pasadena’s historical materials on a larger scale. Everyone seemed excited about the possibilities and glad to have an agreed-upon direction and specific goals.
All that remained then was to finalize a few details on the technical agreement so there would be an official, binding document. (Contract law: Thinking about everything that could go wrong and figuring out how to stop it with words.) To my surprise, the meeting actually ended a little early. It was a good meeting, everybody said. It was helpful; it was focused. We got a lot accomplished.
I find myself tempted to try to glean profound managerial insights from this meeting. You may, if you like. But ultimately it is just one story within the larger story of the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration: one meeting, one conversation, one series of compromises. There are more stories where this came from, and there will be more yet to come.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

We made the Star News!

And the numbers show it!

The new partnership between the PDHC and the Huntington Library made the newspaper.

Thank you to everyone involved!

The website hits (26,027) to the PDHC webpage for August already exceed the hits for all of July.

The database itself has also already exceeded total July usage stats (132,695 hits as of today!)

Our Flickr hits made a dramatic jump as well! We had 1,671 visitors on August 4 (the day the article went to press), 2,561 visitors on August 5, and 1,063 on August 6.

The article really has had an impact on the PDHC website! Way to go!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spotlight on Michelle Turner, PMH cataloger

And now for something completely different... the perspective of a cataloger from the Pasadena Museum of History! How does it feel to be a museum worker collaborating with librarians? What unique challenges are presented when digitizing museum collections? Today's special guest Michelle Turner elucidates.
Kelli Hines: What is your role within the collaboration?
Michelle Turner: PMH Art & Artifacts cataloger; social media and outreach
KH: What excites you most about the project?
MT: Having most (or a good portion at least!) of Pasadena's digital historic resources in one place.  I think researchers and the general public really like to look at what everyone has before deciding which institution to visit.  It also allows us to easily do online exhibits using the resources from multiple institutions, which is very exciting.
KH: How has the collaboration changed or evolved since the beginning?
MT: The focus of the project since the beginning has been photographs, but recently we've started putting art and artifacts into the database.  PMH has an impressive art collection, particularly California plein air art, and I'd like to have a small selection of it up by the end of this year.
KH: What was behind the decision to start adding art and artifacts into the database? Are there any unique concerns for digitizing these types of items?
MT: Including art and artifacts was always part of the plan.  Eventually, we plan to include other holding as well, such as manuscripts.  We began with photographs because it's the biggest common denominator between the institutions, and we all have such large photograph holdings.  The biggest concern has been creating a separate metadata schema.  3-Dimensional objects are so different from photographs; we could not use the same metadata schema for everything.  However, we still had to make sure that everything mapped to the Dublin Core in such a way that visitors could cross search through all of the collections.
KH: What has been the most challenging for you?
MT: Understanding Dublin Core and where fields should be mapped!  Luckily, we have an expert or two in our group for that.  Another small challenge has been managing PDHC's Facebook page.  When we have eager interns or a big project, a lot's happening and there's plenty to tell people about.  But even if we haven't added anything new in weeks (which can easily happen with our busy schedules), I still need to post to Facebook regularly to keep our followers engaged.  A lot of people "like" us (over 300), but I'd like to see that double in the next year.
KH: Tell me about a time when you overcame a difficulty in the project.
MT: Well, when I first started attending the PDHC meetings, I realized that I would need to quickly become fluent in another language - librarian!  Everyone from PPC and PPL have MLIS degrees.  I have an MA in Public History / Museum Studies.  It took me 10 minutes in my first meeting to figure out that "LCSH" referred to Library of Congress Subject Headings (I'm used to the Getty Art & Architecture thesaurus and the Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging).  With all of the acronyms the librarians use, I still occasionally feel like I'm in one of FDR's cabinet meetings!
KH: How do you create a balance between your other work and the work for the PDHC?
MT: Balance is hard.  Basically, I keep a running "to do" list.  About once a week, I take a look at my list and decide if the items need to get reordered.  Occasionally, the PDHC makes it to the top of the list, and I get some things done.  It also helps that with my job I'm usually cataloging/accessioning objects, which means that the metadata for objects is already done when I get around to cataloging in Content DM.
KH: What do you wish you had known before starting the collaboration?
MT: The amount of time involved!
KH: Is there anything you would have done differently?
MT: I would have liked to have done a user survey earlier in the process.  It's great that we have so much up, but I want to make sure it's easy for people to find what they're looking for.
KH: If you could be granted any one wish for the project, what would you wish for?
MT: $$$, which would hopefully equal more staff time.  At the moment, I think we are all just squeezing PDHC into our schedules.  It would be nice to have someone dedicated solely to the project to manage things.
KH: From your lips to the grant committees' ears!
I hope you have enjoyed today's interview segment. More to come over the next few weeks....

Monday, July 18, 2011

Spotlight on Martha Camacho, PPL project administrator

Where did the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration come from? Did it spring forth fully formed from the head of Zeus? To find out, read the second interview in our ongoing series, starring Martha Camacho from Pasadena Public Library, one of the major players in the project.
Kelli Hines: What is your role within the collaboration?
Martha Camacho: I am one of the project administrators, representing Pasadena Public Library.
KH: How did you get involved?
MC: I was selected for the Eureka Leadership program in California in 2009. The Pasadena Digital History Collaboration is the result of my proposed project for the leadership program and the result of a mini-grant that came along with it. Once I had the idea to create a single access point of Pasadena’s digital images, I worked with Pasadena City College and Pasadena Museum of History to get them on board.
KH: What excites you most about the project?
MC: The communication and collaboration that is going on now among Pasadena cultural institutions. Before, we all existed in our own vacuum. Now more of us are talking, working together, and sharing resources and expertise, including organizations not officially part of the PDHC yet.
KH: What are you most proud of?
MC: The staff and volunteers who are dedicated to seeing the vision come to life.
KH: What has been the most challenging for you?
MC: Finding time to manage the PDHC service with all the other responsibilities we all have. It would be great to have a full-time person who coordinates everything!
KH: How do you create a balance between your other work and the work for the PDHC?
MC: I devote a specific amount of time to the PDHC each week. If I do not accomplish what I want that week, then I put it on the list for the following week. My list continues to grow!
KH: Tell me about a time when you overcame a difficulty in the project.
MC: So far, nothing has been too difficult in my eyes. To tell you the truth, it seems to be going smoothly since all of us are so dedicated to sharing our collections and making them more accessible. The one issue, if I had to choose any, would be the fact that we do not have enough time, staff, and equipment to manage all the volunteers and digitization projects we would like to do.
KH: How do you decide what is most important? What compromises have you had to make in order to get things accomplished?
MC: We all come together to make decisions and prioritize. Each of us has a role or roles that we are responsible for, so that also help us make decisions, stay on top of things, and follow-through. Compromises are needed all the time. We have so many ideas, but never enough time or resources to implement them. Sticking with our goals and doing reality checks helps us prioritize.
KH: Could you give me an example of some specific compromises you've had to make or ideas you've had to set aside because they didn't meet the goals or pass the reality check?
MC: One specific idea that we decided to not do is applying for a ton of grants this year. When we first sat down to discuss grants, we had a list of 7 or 8 that we were considering, but after talking further, we decided it was important to first establish our goals and then find a specific grant or two that truly meets the criteria that we need. I do not really see this as a compromise though, since it works out better for us in the end. We do not have a lot of time to waste, so we have to be strategic and thoughtful about what we do.
KH: How has the collaboration changed or evolved since the beginning?
MC: This year, we will begin to see new partners joining the Collaboration. The first is the Huntington, who joined us last month. I am excited to see the collection grow. Everyone brings a unique, diverse point of view to the collection. It is really making the collection more dynamic and interesting!
KH: What do you wish you had known before starting the collaboration?
MC: How quickly it would take off. We started hearing from organizations interested in being partners very early on, and unfortunately, we cannot keep up with pace for requests to participate.
KH: Is there anything you would have done differently?
MC: No! We all are learning as we go, so everything that happens or does not happen is a learning opportunity.
KH: If you could be granted any one wish for the project, what would you wish for?
MC: To receive a large grant that will allow us to hire a full-time coordinator, create a digitization lab so that we can scan everything for our partners, and continue to work with new organizations. Sorry, I know that was more than one!
KH: Technically, a grant is just one thing, even if you do more than one thing with it. Anyway, you're my supervisor, so I'll let it slide. ;-D
That's all for this time, but stay tuned for more from the PDHC!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Spotlight on Dan McLaughlin, Pasadena Public Library Photo Librarian

Creating a digital collaboration is a lot of work. Who are the hard-working superstars behind the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration? Below is the first in a series of interviews highlighting different individuals in the collaboration: their role, their triumphs, their frustrations, and their reflections on the process. The interviewer is Kelli Hines, a summer PDHC intern from San Jose State University's MLIS program, and the special guest is Dan McLaughlin from the Pasadena Public Library.

Kelli Hines: What is your role within the collaboration?

Dan McLaughlin: I am the photo librarian at the Pasadena public library and sort of have become the keeper of the subject headings.

KH: How did you get involved?

DM: Martha Camacho, the person who created the collaborative, is my direct supervisor.

KH: How do you create a balance between your other work and the work for the PDHC?

DM: Making sure the PDHC work is in sync with my larger job, which is Pasadena history.

KH: Has the collaboration changed or evolved since the beginning?

DM: Not really. It will in the future, but right now it’s been pretty stable. Oh, now we are beginning to explore non-photo digital resources.

KH: How do you decide what is most important? What compromises have you had to make in order to get things accomplished?

DM: Well, through discussion. Sometimes we use minimal subject headings when there is a desire to get things up quickly.

KH: What excites you most about the project?

DM: Three things, getting our photos online, seeing the photos from other institutions (both current and future members) and mechanisms for allowing discussion about photos.

KH: What are you most proud of?

DM: Getting our photos online.

KH: Why is getting the photos online a particular source of pride for you?

DM: I have scans dating back to 1999 that are now seeing the light of day.

KH: What has been the most challenging for you?

DM: Content dm @#$#$@#$%#$%#$%#$

KH: It sounds like there's no love lost between you and CONTENTdm. Could you elaborate on the specific difficulties and limitations you've experienced with the software?

DM: Three big areas. One, we made some basic decisions on the structure and content of the underlying database based on descriptions we were given. These descriptions have proven to be false. In other cases we made assumptions on the structure of the database that have also proven to be false. On the level or record entry and manipulation the interface is both clunky and cumbersome (you can only see about 40 characters in a field that is unlimited; to edit a subject heading involves three distinct steps each of which can take a few minutes to process.) Basically the database seems to be designed to massively import lots of records at the same time that will never be edited. Our work flow is much smaller batches of records that need to be individually massaged. There is a fundamental disconnect between who the database was designed for and how we are using it.

KH: Is there anything you would have done differently?

DM: We would have structured our cataloguing rules differently. We assume someday that we will be able to implement a thesaurus (SEE and SEE ALSO); we also assume that someday we will be able to sort a search by date of item; we would like to be able to search both the entire database and also search just by a particular institution and/or type of material. We have made cataloguing rules assuming these things or to work around content dm limitations.

KH: If you could be granted any one wish for the project, what would you wish for?

DM: That version 6.2 will do everything that has been promised. I am not hopeful.