[Asis-l] Kent State SLIS unveils new Digital Laboratory

Cunningham, Flo fcunning at kent.edu
Tue Apr 12 16:27:27 EDT 2011

(Please excuse multiple postings.)

Digital Lab benefits students, community

The new Digital Laboratory in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) is giving students hands-on experience with digital library and digital preservation technologies.

The decision to change the former student laboratory into the new digital laboratory was made in 2009. It took about five to six months to do the planning, and construction began last summer. Once the room had been renovated, it took several more months to install and test the new equipment.

The Digital Laboratory has the capability to digitize manuscripts, books, photographs and slides, architectural drawings and other larger format visual materials, as well as more than 20 audio and video formats. Digitization is the conversion of analog information into digital information, which makes the data accessible to users because it can be made available online.

"We're providing training for people in library and information science to be able to reformat obsolete analog formats," said SLIS Assistant Professor Karen Gracy, Ph.D. "There are very few programs in the country that offer this sort of training in digitization, particularly for audiovisual materials."

Digitization is a critical skill for students interested in digital libraries and digital preservation work.

"It's one thing for me to lecture to somebody how to do digitization, and it's another thing to sit them in front of a work station and have them actually handle the media," Gracy said. "It really gives them that experiential learning piece that has been missing. We don't assume that the students will have the same setup when they're out there in the working world, but they'll know what it's like and what quality reformatting looks like."

The lab is used mainly by SLIS students pursuing either the digital libraries or the digital preservation specialization. Although the specializations have different goals, both use the digitization process.

"On the digital libraries side, it's really about building collections, creating resources, putting them in a repository and describing them in a way that people can access them," Gracy said. "The focus is really on building."

Gracy added that the digital preservation specialization focus is mainly about creating an object that can be sustained over the long term.

"We're dealing with obsolete formats," she said. "We want to make decisions while we're creating digital versions of material that will make it easier for us to access this work 50 to 100 years from now."

Gracy said the digital lab will also allow SLIS to partner with local institutions to work on reformatting projects using the new equipment.

"The idea is that if local institutions, such as libraries and historical societies, are willing to have supervised students work on their materials, they can get the transfer services essentially for free," she said. "The piece that the institution has to figure out for itself is how to store the files that result from the digitization process. Audio visual material in particular has a huge storage need. The main idea is to do a partnership where students get good educational opportunities and work experiences while the institution gets material transferred and makes it more accessible to its community."

For more information about the lab, please contact Karen Gracy at kgracy at kent.edu.

--Story by Nicole Gennarelli

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