Category Archives: Projects

Voices from the Movement

This past year the SNCC Digital Gateway has brought a number of activists to Duke’s campus to discuss lesser known aspects of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)’s history and how their approach to organizing shifted over time. These sessions ranged the development of the symbol of the Black Panther for the Lowndes County Freedom Party, the strength of local people in the Movement in Southwest Georgia, and the global network supporting SNCC’s fight for Black empowerment in the U.S. and across the African Diaspora. Next month, there will be a session focused on music in the Movement, with a public panel the evening of September 19th.

Screenshot of “Born into the Movement,” from the “Our Voices” section on the SNCC Digital Gateway.

These visiting activist sessions, often spanning the course of a few days, produce hours of audio and video material, as SNCC veterans reengage with the history through conversation with their comrades. And this material is rich, as memories are dusted off and those involved explore how and why they did what they did. However, considering the structure of the SNCC Digital Gateway and wanting to make these 10 hour collections of A/V material digestible and accessible, we’ve had to develop a means of breaking them down.

Step One: Transcription

As is true for many projects, you begin by putting pen to paper (or by typing furiously). With the amount of transcribing that we do for this project, we’re certainly interested in making the process as seamless as possible. We depend on ExpressScribe, which allows you to set hot keys to start, stop, rewind, and fast forward audio material. Another feature is that you can easily adjust the speed at which the recording is being played, which is helpful for keeping your typing flow steady and uninterrupted. For those who really want to dive in, there is a foot pedal extension (yes, one did temporarily live in our project room) that allows you to control the recording with your feet – keeping your fingers even more free to type at lightning speed. After transcribing, it is always good practice to review the transcription, which you can do efficiently while listening to a high speed playback.

Step Two: Selecting Clips

Once these have been transcribed (each session results in approximately a 130 page transcript, single-spaced), it is time to select clips. For the parameters of this project, we keep the clips roughly between 30 seconds and 8 minutes and intentionally try to pull out the most prominent themes from the conversation. We then try to fit our selections into a larger narrative that tells a story. This process takes multiple reviews of the material and a significant amount of back and forth to ensure that the narrative stays true to the sentiments of the entire conversation.

The back-end of one of our pages.

Step Three: Writing the Narrative

We want users to listen to all of the A/V material, but sometimes details need to be laid out so that the clips themselves make sense. This is where the written narrative comes in. Without detracting from the wealth of newly-created audio and video material, we try to fill in some of the gaps and contextualize the clips for those who might be less familiar with the history. In addition to the written narrative, we embed relevant documents and photographs that complement the A/V material and give greater depth to the user’s experience.

Step Four: Creating the Audio Files

With all of the chosen clips pulled from the transcript, it’s time to actually make the audio files. For each of these sessions, we have multiple recorders in the room, in order to ensure everyone can be heard on the tape and that none of the conversation is lost due to recorder malfunction. These recorders are set to record in .WAV files, an uncompressed audio format for maximum audio quality.

One complication with having multiple mics in the room, however, is that the timestamps on the files are not always one-to-one. In order to easily pull the clips from the best recording we have, we have to sync the files. Our process involves first creating a folder system on an external hard drive. We then create a project in Adobe Premiere and import the files. It’s important that these files be on the same hard drive as the project file so that Premiere can easily find them. Then, we make sequences of the recordings and match the waveform from each of the mics. With a combination of using the timestamps on the transcriptions and scrubbing through the material, it’s easy to find the clips we need. From there, we can make any post-production edits that are necessary in Adobe Audition and export them as .mp3 files with Adobe Media Encoder.

Step Five: Uploading & Populating

Due to the SNCC Digital Gateway’s sustainability requirements, we host the files in a Duke Digital Collections folder and then embed them in the website, which is built on a WordPress platform. These files are then formatted between text, document, and image, to tell a story.

The Inaugural TRLN Institute – an Experiment in Consortial Collaboration

In June of this year I was fortunate to have participated in the inaugural TRLN Institute. Modeled as a sort of Scholarly Communication Institute for TRLN (Triangle Research Libraries Network, a consortium located in the Triangle region of North Carolina), the Institute provided space (the magnificent Hunt Library on North Carolina State University’s campus), time (three full days), and food (Breakfast! Lunch! Coffee!) for groups of 4-6 people from member libraries to get together to exclusively focus on developing innovative solutions to shared problems. Not only was it productive, it was truly delightful to spend time with colleagues from member institutions who, although we are geographically close, don’t get together often enough.

Six projects were chosen from a pool of applicants who proposed topics around this year’s theme of Scholarly Communication:

  • Supporting Scholarly Communications in Libraries through Project Management Best Practices
  • Locating Research Data in an Age of Open Access
  • Clarifying Rights and Maximizing Reuse with RightsStatements.org
  • Building a Research Data Community of Practice in NC
  • Building the 21st Century Researcher Brand
  • Scholarship in the Sandbox: Showcasing Student Works

You can read descriptions of the projects as well as group membership here.

The 2017 TRLN Institute participants and organizers, a happy bunch.

Having this much dedicated and unencumbered time to thoughtfully and intentionally address a problem area with colleagues was invaluable. And the open schedule allowed groups to be flexible as their ideas and expectations changed throughout the course of the three-day program. My own group – Clarifying Rights and Maximizing Reuse with RightsStatements.org – was originally focused on developing practices for the application and representation of RightsStatements.org statements for TRLN libraries’ online digitized collections. Through talking as a group, however, we realized early on that some of the stickiest issues regarding the implementation of a new rights management strategy involves the work an institution has to do to identify appropriate staff to do the work, allocate resources, plan, and document the process.

So, we pivoted! Instead of developing a decision matrix for applying the RS.org statements in digital collections (which is what we originally thought our output would be), we instead spent our time drafting a report – a roadmap of sorts – that describes the following important components when implementing RightsStatements.org:

  • roles and responsibilities (including questions that a person in a role would need to ask)
  • necessary planning and documentation
  • technical decisions
  • example implementations (including steps taken and staff involved – perhaps the most useful section of the report)

This week, we put the finishing touches on our report: TRLN Rights Statements Report – A Roadmap for Implementing RightsStatements.org Statements (yep, yet another google doc).  We’re excited to get feedback from the community, as well as hear about how other institutions are handling rights management metadata, especially as it relates to upstream archival information management. This is an area rife for future exploration!

I’d say that the first TRLN Institute was a success. I can’t imagine my group having self-organized and produced a document in just over a month without having first had three days to work together in the same space and unencumbered by other responsibilities. I think other groups have found valuable traction via the Institute as well, which will result in more collaborative efforts. I look forward to seeing what future TRLN Institute produce – this is definitely a model to continue!

A Summer Day in the Life of Digital Collections

A recent tweet from my colleague in the Rubenstein Library (pictured above) pretty much sums up the last few weeks at work.  Although I rarely work directly with students and classes, I am still impacted by the hustle and bustle in the library when classes are in session.  Throughout the busy Spring I found myself saying, oh I’ll have time to work on that over the Summer.  Now Summer is here, so it is time to make some progress on those delayed projects while keeping others moving forward.  With that in mind here is your late Spring and early Summer round-up of Digital Collections news and updates.

Radio Haiti

A preview of the soon to be live Radio Haiti Archive digital collection.

The long anticipated launch of the Radio Haiti Archives is upon us.  After many meetings to review the metadata profile, discuss modeling relationships between recordings, and find a pragmatic approach to representing metadata in 3 languages all in the Duke Digital Repository public interface, we are now in preview mode, and it is thrilling.  Behind the scenes, Radio Haiti represents a huge step forward in the Duke Digital Repository’s ability to store and play back audio and video files.

You can already listen to many recordings via the Radio Haiti collection guide, and we will share the digital collection with the world in late June or early July.  In the meantime, check out this teaser image of the homepage.

 

Section A

My colleague Meghan recently wrote about our ambitions Section A digitization project, which will result in creating finding aids for and digitizing 3000+ small manuscript collections from the Rubenstein library.  This past week the 12 people involved in the project met to review our workflow.  Although we are trying to take a mass digitization and streamlined approach to this project, there are still a lot of people and steps.  For example, we spent about 20-30 minutes of our 90 minute meeting reviewing the various status codes we use on our giant Google spreadsheet and when to update them. I’ve also created a 6 page project plan that encompasses both a high and medium level view of the project. In addition to that document, each part of the process (appraisal, cataloging review, digitization, etc.) also has their own more detailed documentation.  This project is going to last at least a few years, so taking the time to document every step is essential, as is agreeing on status codes and how to use them.  It is a big process, but with every box the project gets a little easier.

Status codes for tracking our evaluation, remediation, and digitization workflow.
Section A Project Plan Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion Digitization Initiative Proposals and Easy Projects

As Bitstreams readers and DUL colleagues know, this year we instituted 2 new processes for proposing digitization projects.  Our second digitization initiative deadline has just passed (it was June 15) and I will be working with the review committee to review new proposals as well as reevaluate 2 proposals from the first round in June and early July.  I’m excited to say that we have already approved one project outright (Emma Goldman papers), and plan to announce more approved projects later this Summer. 

We also codified “easy project” guidelines and have received several easy project proposals.  It is still too soon to really assess this process, but so far the process is going well.

Transcription and Closed Captioning

Speaking of A/V developments, another large project planned for this Summer is to begin codifying our captioning and transcription practices.  Duke Libraries has had a mandate to create transcriptions and closed captions for newly digitized A/V for over a year. In that time we have been working with vendors on selected projects.  Our next steps will serve two fronts; on the programmatic side we need  review the time and expense captioning efforts have incurred so far and see how we can scale our efforts to our backlog of publicly accessible A/V.  On the technology side I’ve partnered with one of our amazing developers to sketch out a multi-phase plan for storing and providing access to captions and time-coded transcriptions accessible and searchable in our user interface.  The first phase goes into development this Summer.  All of these efforts will no doubt be the subject of a future blog post.  

Testing VTT captions of Duke Chapel Recordings in JWPlayer

Summer of Documentation

My aspirational Summer project this year is to update digital collections project tracking documentation, review/consolidate/replace/trash existing digital collections documentation and work with the Digital Production Center to create a DPC manual.  Admittedly writing and reviewing documentation is not the most exciting Summer plan,  but with so many projects and collaborators in the air, this documentation is essential to our productivity, communication practices, and my personal sanity.   

Late Spring Collection launches and Migrations

Over the past few months we launched several new digital collections as well as completed the migration of a number of collections from our old platform into the Duke Digital Repository.  

New Collections:

Migrated Collections:

…And so Much More!

In addition to the projects above, we continue to make slow and steady progress on our MSI system, are exploring using the FFv1 format for preserving selected moving image collections, planning the next phase of the Digital Collections migration into the Duke Digital Repository, thinking deeply about collection level metadata and structured metadata, planning to launch newly digitized Gedney images, integrating digital objects in finding aids and more.  No doubt some of these efforts will appear in subsequent Bitstreams posts.  In the meantime, let’s all try not to let this Summer fly by too quickly!

Enjoy Summer while you can!

The New and Improved SNCC Digital Gateway

It may only be 6 months old, but as of May 31, the SNCC Digital Gateway is sporting a new look. Since going live in December 2016, we’ve been doing assessment, talking to contemporary activists and movement veterans and conducting user testing and student surveys. The feedback’s been overwhelmingly positive, but a few suggestions kept coming up. Give people a better sense of who SNCC was right from the homepage, and make it more active. Connect SNCC’s history to organizing today. As one of the young organizers put it, “What is it about SNCC’s legacy now that matters for people?” So we took those suggestions to heart and are proud to present a reworked, redesigned SNCC Digital Gateway. Keep reading for a breakdown of what’s new and why.

Today Section

The new Today section highlights important strategies and lessons from SNCC’s work and explores their usefulness to today’s struggles. Through short, engaging videos, contemporary activists talk about how SNCC’s work continues to be relevant to their organizing today. The nine framing questions and answers of today’s organizers speak to enduring themes at the heart of SNCC’s work: uniting with local people to build a grassroots movement for change that empowered Black communities and transformed the nation. Check out this example:

More Expansive Homepage

The new homepage is longer and gives visitors to the site more context and direction. It includes descriptions of who SNCC was and links users to The Story of SNCC, which tells an expansive but concise history of SNCC’s work. It features videos from the new Today section, and gives users a way to explore the site through themes like voting rights, the organizing tradition, and Black Power.

Themes


Want to know more about voting rights? Black Power? Or are you not as familiar with SNCC’s history and need an entry point? The theme buttons on the homepage give users a window into SNCC’s history through particular aspects of the organization’s work. Theme pages feature select profiles and events focused on a central component of SNCC’s organizing. From there, click through the documents or follow the links to dig deeper into the story.

Navigation Updates

To improve navigation for the site, we’ve changed the name of the History section to Timeline and the former Perspectives to Our Voices. We’ve also moved the About section to the footer to make space for the new Today section.

Have suggestions? Comments? We’re always interested in what you’re thinking. Add a comment or send us an e-mail to snccdigital@gmail.org.

The ABCs of Digitizing Section A

I’m not sure anyone who currently works in the library has any idea when the phrase “Section A” was first coined as a call number for small manuscript collections. Before the library’s renovation, before we barcoded all our books and boxes — back when the Rubenstein was still RBMSCL, and our reading room carpet was a very bright blue — there was a range of boxes holding single-folder manuscript collections, arranged alphabetically by collection creator. And this range was called Section A.

Box 175 of Section A
Box 175 of Section A

Presumably there used to be a Section B, Section C, and so on — and it could be that the old shelf ranges were tracked this way, I’m not sure — but the only one that has persisted through all our subsequent stacks moves and barcoding projects has been Section A. Today there are about 3900 small collections held in 175 boxes that make up the Section A call number. We continue to add new single-folder collections to this call number, although thanks to the miracle of barcodes in the catalog, we no longer have to shift files to keep things in perfect alphabetical order. The collections themselves have no relationship to one another except that they are all small. Each collection has a distinct provenance, and the range of topics and time periods is enormous — we have everything from the 17th to the 21st century filed in Section A boxes. Small manuscript collections can also contain a variety of formats: correspondence, writings, receipts, diaries or other volumes, accounts, some photographs, drawings, printed ephemera, and so on. The bang-for-your-buck ratio is pretty high in Section A: though small, the collections tend to be well-described, meaning that there are regular reproduction and reference requests. Section A is used so often that in 2016, Rubenstein Research Services staff approached Digital Collections to propose a mass digitization project, re-purposing the existing catalog description into digital collections within our repository. This will allow remote researchers to browse all the collections easily, and also reduce repetitive reproduction requests.

This project has been met with enthusiasm and trepidation from staff since last summer, when we began to develop a cross-departmental plan to appraise, enhance description, and digitize the 3900 small manuscript collections that are housed in Section A. It took us a bit of time, partially due to the migration and other pressing IT priorities, but this month we are celebrating a major milestone: we have finally launched our first 2 Section A collections, meant to serve as a proof of concept, as well as a chance for us to firmly define the project’s goals and scope. Check them out: Abolitionist Speech, approximately 1850, and the A. Brouseau and Co. Records, 1864-1866. (Appropriately, we started by digitizing the collections that began with the letter A.)

A. Brouseau & Co. Records carpet receipts, 1865

Why has it been so complicated? First, the sheer number of collections is daunting; while there are plenty of digital collections with huge item counts already in the repository, they tend to come from a single or a few archival collections. Each newly-digitized Section A collection will be a new collection in the repository, which has significant workflow repercussions for the Digital Collections team. There is no unifying thread for Section A collections, so we are not able to apply metadata in batch like we would normally do for outdoor advertising or women’s diaries. Rubenstein Research Services and Library Conservation Department staff have been going box by box through the collections (there are about 25 collections per box) to identify out-of-scope collections (typically reference material, not primary sources), preservation concerns, and copyright concerns. These are excluded from the digitization process. Technical Services staff are also reviewing and editing the Section A collections’ description. This project has led to our enhancing some of our oldest catalog records — updating titles, adding subject or name access, and upgrading the records to RDA, a relatively new standard. Using scripts and batch processes (details on GitHub), the refreshed MARC records are converted to EAD files for each collection, and the digitized folder is linked through ArchivesSpace, our collection management system. We crosswalk the catalog’s name and subject access data to both the finding aid and the repository’s metadata fields, allowing the collection to be discoverable through the Rubenstein finding aid portal, the Duke Libraries catalog, and the Duke Digital Repository.

It has been really exciting to see the first two collections go live, and there are many more already digitized and just waiting in the wings for us to automate some of our linking and publishing processes. Another future development that we expect will speed up the project is a batch ingest feature for collections entering the repository. With over 3000 collections to ingest, we are eager to streamline our processes and make things as efficient as possible. Stay tuned here for more updates on the Section A project, and keep an eye on Digital Collections if you’d like to explore some of these newly-digitized collections.

Photographing the Movement

Ella Baker, 1964, Danny Lyon, Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement 12, dektol.wordpress.com

You never know what to expect with the SNCC Digital Gateway Project project. This three-and-a-half year collaboration with veterans of the Civil Rights Movement, scholars, and archivists has brought constant surprises, one of which came this past January.

The SNCC Digital Gateway website went live on December 13, 2016. One of the 20th century’s most influential activists, Ella Baker, brought the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) into being out of the student sit-in movement in 1960, and it would have been her 113th birthday. The SNCC Digital Gateway tells the story of how young activists in SNCC united with local people in the Deep South to build a grassroots movement for change that empowered the Black community and transformed the nation.

Bob Dylan, Courtland Cox, Pete Seeger, and James Forman sitting outside the SNCC office in Greenwood, Mississippi, July 1963, Danny Lyon, dektol.wordpress.com

Over 175 SNCC staff, local activists, mentors, and allies are profiled on the site. The entire project is built on open communication and collaboration between movement veterans and scholars, so after the website went live, SNCC Legacy Project president Courtland Cox sent all living SNCC veterans a link to their profile and requested their feedback. And this is where the unexpected happened. Danny Lyon, SNCC’s first staff photographer, wrote back, offering the use of his photographs in the SNCC Digital Gateway.

Photograph of Danny Lyon with his Nikon F Reflex, Chicago 1960, Danny Lyon Photography, Magnum Photos
Photograph of Danny Lyon with his Nikon F Reflex in Chicago, 1960, Danny Lyon, dektol.wordpress.com

In many ways, Danny Lyon’s photos are the iconic photos of SNCC. In the summer of 1962, Lyon, then a student at the University of Chicago, hitchhiked to Cairo, Illinois with his camera to photograph the desegregation movement that SNCC was helping to organize. After SNCC’s executive secretary James Forman brought Lyon onto staff, he spent next two years documenting SNCC organizing work and demonstrations across the South. Many SNCC posters and pamphlets featured Lyon’s photographs, helping SNCC develop its public image and garner sympathy for the Movement. Julian Bond described Lyon’s photos  as helping “to make the movement move.”

For Danny Lyon to offer these images to the SNCC Digital Gateway was something like winning the lottery. The ties between SNCC veterans run deep, and Lyon explained that he wanted to help. Due to the website’s sustainability standards, our sources for photographs have been limited. While the number of movement-related digital collections are growing, the vast majority are made up of documents, not images. Lyon agreed to give us digital copies of any his movement photos for use in the site. These included rarely photographed people, like Prathia Hall, Worth Long, Euvester Simpson, and many others.

We spent two months working with Danny Lyon and the people at Magnum Photos to identify images, hammer out terms of use, and embed the photos in the site. Today, the SNCC Digital Gateway website proudly features over 70 of Danny Lyon’s photographs. Spend some time, and check them out. And thank you, Mr. Danny Lyon!

James Forman leads singing with staffers in the SNCC office on Raymond Street, 1963, Danny Lyon, Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement 123, dektol.wordpress.com

A Refreshing New Look for Our Library Website

If you’ve visited the Duke University Libraries website in the past month, you may have noticed that it looks a bit more polished than it used to. Over the course of the fall 2016 semester, my talented colleague Michael Daul and I co-led a project to develop and implement a new theme for the site. We flipped the switch to launch the theme on January 6, 2017, the week before spring classes began. In this post, I’ll share some background on the project and its process, and highlight some noteworthy features of the new theme we put in place.

Newly refreshed Duke University Libraries website homepage.

Goals

We kicked off the project in Aug 2016 using the title “Website Refresh” (hat-tip to our friends at NC State Libraries for coining that term). The best way to frame it was not as a “redesign,” but more like a 50,000-mile maintenance tuneup for the site.  We had four main goals:

  • Extend the Life of our current site (in Drupal 7) without a major redesign or redevelopment effort
  • Refresh the Look of the site to be modern but not drastically different
  • Better Code by streamlining HTML markup & CSS style code for easier management & flexibility
  • Enhance Accessibility via improved compliance with WCAG accessibility guidelines

Our site is fairly large and complex (1,200+ pages, for starters). So to keep the scope lean, we included no changes in content, information architecture, or platform (i.e., stayed on Drupal 7). We also worked with a lean stakeholder team to make decisions related to aesthetics.

Extending the Life of the Site

Our old website theme was aging; the project leading to its development began five years ago in Sep 2012, was announced in Jan 2013, and then eventually launched about three years ago in Jan 2014. Five years–and even three–is a long time in web years. Sites accumulate a lot of code cruft over time, the tools for managing and writing code become deprecated quickly. We wanted to invest a little time now to replace some pieces of the site’s front-end architecture with newer and better replacements, in order to buy us more time before we’d have to do an expensive full-scale overhaul from the ground up.

Refreshing the Look

Our 2014 site derived a lot its aesthetic from the main Duke.edu website at the time. Duke’s site has changed significantly since then, and meanwhile, web design trends have changed dramatically: flat design is in, skeuomorphism out.  Google Web Fonts are in, Times, Arial, Verdana and company are out.  Even a three year old site on the web can look quite dated.

Old site theme, dated aesthetics.
New “refreshed” theme, with flatter, more modern aesthetic

Closeup on skeuomorphic embellishments vs. flat elements.

Better Code

Beyond evolving aesthetics, the various behind-the-scenes web frameworks and code workflows are in constant, rapid flux; it can really keep a developer’s head on a swivel. Better code means easier maintenance, and to that end our code got a lot better after implementing these solutions:

  • Bootstrap Upgrade. For our site’s HTML/CSS/JS framework, we moved from Bootstrap version 2 (2.3.1) to version 3 (3.3.7). This took weeks of work: it meant thousands of pages of markup revisions, only some of which could be done with a global Search & Replace.
  •  Sass for CSS. We trashed all of our old theme’s CSS files and started over using Sass, a far more efficient way to express and maintain style rules than vanilla CSS.
  • Gulp for Automation. Our new theme uses Gulp to automate code tasks like processing Sass into CSS, auto-prefixing style declarations to work on older browsers, and crunching 30+ css files down into one.
  • Font Awesome. We ditched most of our older image-based icons in favor of Font Awesome ones, which are far easier to reference and style, and faster to load.
  • Radix.  This was an incredibly useful base theme for Drupal that encapsulates/integrates Sass, Gulp, Bootstrap, and FontAwesome. It also helped us get a Bootswatch starter theme in the mix to minimize the local styling we had to do on top of Bootstrap.

We named our new theme Dulcet and put it up on GitHub.

Sass for style management, e.g., expressing colors as reusable variables.
Gulp for task automation, e.g., auto-prefixing styles to account for older browser workarounds.

 Accessibility

Some of the code and typography revisions we’ve made in the “refresh” improve our site’s compliance with WCAG2.0 accessibility guidelines. We’re actively working on further assessment and development in this area. Our new theme is better suited to integrate with existing tools, e.g., to automatically add ARIA attributes to interactive page elements.

Feedback or Questions?

We would love to hear from you if you have any feedback on our new site, if you spot any oddities, or if you’re considering doing a similar project and have any questions. We encourage you to explore the site, and hope you find it a refreshing experience.

New Digitization Project Proposal Process and Call for Proposals

At Duke University Libraries (DUL), we are embarking on a new way to propose digitization projects.  This isn’t a spur of the moment New Year’s resolution I promise, but has been in the works for months.  Our goal in making a change to our proposal process is twofold: first, we want to focus our resources on specific types of projects, and second, we want to make our efforts as efficient as possible.

Introducing Digitization Initiatives

The new proposal workflow centers on what we are calling “digitization initiatives.” These are groups of digitization projects that relate to a specific theme or characteristic.  DUL’s Advisory Council for Digital Collections develops guidelines for an initiative, and will then issue a call for proposals to the library.  Once the call has been issued, library staff can submit proposals on or before one of two deadlines over a 6 month period.  Following submission, proposals will be vetted, and accepted proposals will move onto implementation. Our previous system did not include deadlines, and proposals were asked to demonstrate broad strategic importance only.

DUL is issuing our first call for proposals now, and if this system proves successful we will develop a second digitization initiative to be announced in 2018.

I’ll say more about why we are embarking on this new system later, but first I would like to tell you about our first digitization initiative.

Call for Proposals

Duke University Libraries’ Advisory Council for Digital Collections has chosen diversity and inclusion as the theme of our first digitization initiative.  This initiative draws on areas of strategic importance both for DUL (as noted in the 2016 strategic plan) and the University.  Prospective champions are invited to think broadly about definitions of diversity and inclusion and how particular collections embody these concepts, which may include but is not limited to topics of race, religion, class, ability, socioeconomic status, gender, political beliefs, sexuality, age, and nation of origin.

Full details of the call for proposals here: https://duke.box.com/s/vvftxcqy9qmhtfcxdnrqdm5kqxh1zc6t

Proposals will be due on March 15, 2017 or June 15, 2017.

Proposing non-diversity and inclusion related proposal

We have not forgotten about all the important digitization proposals that support faculty, important campus or off campus partnerships, and special events. In our experience, these are often small projects and do not require a lot of extra conservation, technical services, or metadata support so we are creating an“easy” project pipeline.  This will be a more light-weight process that will still requires a proposal, but less strategic vetting at the outset. There will be more details coming out in late January or February on these projects so stay tuned.

Why this change?

I mentioned above that we are moving to this new system to meet two goals. First, this new system will allow us to focus proposal and vetting resources on projects that meet a specific strategic goal as articulated by an initiative’s guidelines.  Additionally, over the last few years we have received a huge variety of proposals: some are small “no brainer” type proposals while others are extremely large and complicated.  We only had one system for proposing and reviewing all proposals, and sometimes it seemed like too much process and sometimes too little.  In other words one process size does not not fit all.  By dividing our process into strategically focussed proposals on the one hand and easy projects on the other, we can spend more of our Advisory committee’s time on proposals that need it and get the smaller ones straight into the hands of the implementation team.

Another benefit of this process is that proposal deadlines will allow the implementation team to batch various aspects of our work (batching similar types of work makes it go faster).  The deadlines will also allow us to better coordinate the digitization related work performed by other departments.  I often find myself asking departments to fit digitization projects in with their already busy schedules, and it feels rushed and can create unnecessary stress.  If the implementation team has a queue of projects to address, then we can schedule it well in advance.

I’m really excited to see this new process get off the ground, and I’m looking forward to seeing all the fantastic proposals that will result from the Diversity and Inclusion initiative!

SNCC Digital Gateway goes LIVE

sdglogoA new documentary website: SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work (https://snccdigital.org) debuted on Tuesday, December 13th. It is the product of collaboration between the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Legacy Project, Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and Duke Libraries. SNCC, which grew out of the student sit-in movement in 1960, was brought into being by Ella Baker, one of the 20th century’s most influential activists. Tuesday would have been her 113th birthday.

Made possible by the generous support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the SNCC Digital Gateway tells the story of how young activists in SNCC united with local people in the Deep South to build a grassroots movement for change that empowered the Black community and transformed the nation.sdghomepage

Using documentary footage, audio recordings, photographs, and documents, the site portrays how SNCC organizers, alongside thousands of local Black residents, worked so that Black people could take control of their lives. It unveils the inner workings of SNCC as an organization, examining how it coordinated sit-ins and freedom schools, voter registration and economic cooperatives, anti-draft protests and international solidarity struggles.

In this new documentary website, you’ll find:

  • Historic materials including documents, photographs, oral history interviews, and audiovisual material hosted in digital collections at repositories across the country
  • Profiles examining individuals’ contributions to the Movement
  • Events tracing the evolution of SNCC’s organizing
  • Inside SNCC pages unveiling the inner workings of SNCC as an organization
  • Perspectives presenting aspects of SNCC’s history from the eyes of the activists themselves
  • Map connecting users to the people who worked—and the events that happened—in a specific place.

In 2013, the SNCC Legacy Project (SLP) and Duke University formed a partnership to chronicle the historic struggles for voting rights and to develop ongoing programs that contribute to a more civil and inclusive democracy in the 21st century.

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SNCC veterans shaped the vision and framework of the SNCC Digital Gateway. They worked collaboratively with historians of the Movement, archivists, and students to weave together grassroots stories, digitized primary source materials, and new multi-media productions to bring this history—and its enduring legacy—to life for a new generation.

The SNCC Digital Gateway is a work in progress. We will continue to add more stories and fill out its content in the year to come.

The story of the Movement told on this website is one of unsung heroes: domestic workers and sharecroppers, young organizers and seasoned mentors, World War II veterans and high school students. The SNCC Digital Gateway is here to share their story—and to help continue their legacy of organizing for self-determination and democracy in the generations to come. We feel certain that the site not only provides an unprecedented and valuable window onto past civil rights struggles, but a valuable tool for all those interested in social change today.

Developing the Duke Digital Repository is Messy Business

Let me tell you something people: Coordinating development of the Duke Digital Repository (DDR) is a crazy logistical affair that involves much ado about… well, everything!

My last post, What is a Repository?, discussed at a high level, what exactly a digital repository is intended to be and the purpose it plays in the Libraries’ digital ecosystem.  If we take a step down from that, we can categorize the DDR as two distinct efforts, 1) a massive software development project and 2) a complex service suite.  Both require significant project management and leadership, and necessitate tools to help in coordinating the effort.

There are many, many details that require documenting and tracking through the life cycle of a software development project.  Initially we start with requirements- meaning what the tools need to do to meet the end-users needs.  Requirements must be properly documented and must essentially detail a project management plan that can result in a successful product (the software) and the project (the process, and everything that supports success of the product itself).  From this we manage a ‘backlog’ of requirements, and pull from the backlog to structure our work.  Requirements evolve into tasks that are handed off to developers.  Tasks themselves become conversations as the development team determines the best possible approach to getting the work done.  In addition to this, there are bugs to track, changes to document, and new requirements evolving all of the time… you can imagine that managing all of this in a simple ‘To Do’ list could get a bit unwieldy.

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We realized that our ability to keep all of these many plates spinning necessitated a really solid project management tool.  So we embarked on a mission to find just the right one!  I’ll share our approach here, in case you and your team have a similar need and could benefit from our experiences.

STEP 1: Establish your business case:  Finding the right tool will take effort, and getting buy-in from your team and organization will take even more!  Get started early with justifying to your team and your org why a PM tool is necessary to support the work.

STEP 2: Perform a needs assessment: You and your team should get around a table and brainstorm.  Ask yourselves what you need this tool to do, what features are critical, what your budget is, etc.  Create a matrix where you fully define all of these characteristics to drive your investigation.

STEP 3: Do an environmental scan: What is out there on the market?  Do your research and whittle down a list of tools that have potential.  Also build on the skills of your team- if you have existing competencies in a given tool, then fully flesh out its features to see if it fits the bill.

STEP 4:  Put them through the paces: Choose a select list of tools and see how they match up to you needs assessment.  Task a group of people to test-drive the tools, and report out on the experience.

STEP 5: Share your findings: Discuss the findings with your team.  Capture the highs and the lows and present the material in a digestible fashion.  If it’s possible to get consensus, make a recommendation.

STEP 6: Get buy-in: This is the MOST critical part!  Get buy-in from your team to implement the tool.  A PM tool can only benefit the team if it is used thoroughly, consistently, and in a team fashion.  You don’t want to deal with adverse reactions to the tool after the fact…

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No matter what tool you choose, you’ll need to follow some simple guidelines to ensure successful adoption:

  • Once again… Get TEAM buy-in!
  • Define ownership, or an Admin, of the tool (ideally the Project Manager)
  • Define basic parameters for use and team expectations
  • PROVIDE TRAINING
  • Consider your ecosystem of tools and simplify where appropriate
  • The more robust the tool, the more support and structure will be required

Trust me when I say that this exercise will not let you down, and will likely yield a wealth of information about the tools that you use, the projects that you manage, your team’s preferences for coordinating the work, and much more!