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The Firebrary: The Buffalo Fire Historical Society Digital Library April 29, 2006

Posted by jennimi in About me, Digitization Projects, Library School.
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This past Wednesday, my Digital Libraries class unveiled our digital library, the Firebrary, to the School of Informatics Dean, faculty, fellow students, and significant others. It was an important moment of closure to a semester of hard work and dedication. Somewhat anticlimactic, I think all of us went home and collapsed afterward. First a few general notes of recognition: Kudos and thanks to: Dr. June Abbas – who teaches the class and whose trust and respect is appreciated by all students; Margaret Coghlan and the whole team of Buffalo Fire Historical Society Volunteers for their enthusiasm, expertise, and cooperation; our team of presenters – who had the day’s difficult job; and SOI Dean W. David Penniman, for his support of the project and encouragement. Special thanks also Logan Rath, SOI Lab Graduate Assistant, and the folks over at iMedia for photographing the museum’s items so beautifully. On a personal level I’d also like to thank Scott Smith for all his help and encouragement throughout this semester, and for photographing the class for our “Making Of” page.

Now a few words about the process. This class is quickly becoming one of the favorite classes in our LIS program, tied perhaps with Rand Bellavia’s Collection Development. I wish I had statistics on this but I just know both courses close out quite early. Dr. Abbas teaches the DL class in a team project format. Each student is assigned to a group based on interest, and each group chooses a team manager. I chose Organization and Metadata (“OM”) Team, and my team elected two leaders as it was one of the larger teams: Sheryl Saxby, and myself.

Hitting the ground running, we started by learning what makes a digital library different than a web site. We then researched current best practices in digital librarianship, and began to visualize how our team would approach our duties. All the while, we were having regular meetings at the museum, getting a sense of the collection and the volunteers. Regular class discussions in on-line discussion fora, and during class meetings, were used to bring ideas to the table for everything from the collection development policy to the interface design. In other words, even though our main duties were based on our teams, we all had a say in every aspect of the project.

By the end of the semester OM Team had developed a metadata scheme and policy and had designed an input form with hotlinks to the appropriate explanation in our on-line policy. You can find all of this on our policy. I just want to publicly extend my gratitude to all members of my team: Benjamin Hockenberry, James Hurley, Jinxuan Ma, Sheryl Saxby (co-manager) and Courtney Westbrook for their commitment to the project, work ethic, reliability, willingness to challenge themselves and sometimes work outside their comfort zones, and humor. It was an honor to work with this team and I think we will see great contributions to the field from each of them.

It was a privilege to work with all classmates on this project, and a few of us are actually going through withdrawal now that the project is just about complete and ready to be handed over to our clients. Cindy Moore’s daily communications about digitization issues will be missed. Finally, I have posted a flickr! set documenting the process from my point of view here. More photos will be uploaded within the next week or so.

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