Open sourcing collections
When asked what they think of when they think of libraries, most people will offer ‘books’ as their first answer. As librarians, we know that our buildings house all types of collections, which are certainly not limited to books. We also know that if they cannot be found with an easy search via the web, then our patrons will never know about the amazing collections housed in our libraries. The following open source tools will help you make your digital collections visible to your patrons via the web.
Digital collections can come in many shapes and forms. Some are used to keep an archive of publications produced by your institution, some are provided as a way to keep a history of the community, and some provide files on a specific topic. Whatever your digital collection might be used for or made up of, there is an open source application that will help index and provide the necessary data.
Greenstone (http://www.greenstone.org) is a digital library application that allows for the distribution of data via the internet and/or digital media such as a CD ROM or DVD. This flexibility has made it extremely popular worldwide. I was able to install the application and create a website for my collection in less than an hour (see Figure 9.1).
Using the Greenstone Librarian Interface you can easily browse for files on your local machine, network or the web and import them into your collection. Greenstone allows for many collections, each of which can be made up of documents, images, videos, audio files and more. Greenstone has also been developed with worldwide accessibility in mind.
The international Unicode character set is used throughout, so that documents in any language and character encoding can be imported (in fact, Greenstone can automatically detect the language and encoding of most documents). Collections of documents in Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, English, French, Spanish, German, Hindi and Maori are publicly available. The New Zealand Digital Library website (http://nzdl.org) hosts many of these, and the Greenstone website links to sites that contain further examples.
It makes little sense to have a collection whose content is in Chinese or Russian, but whose supporting text – instructions, navigation buttons, labels, images, help text, and so on – are in English. Consequently, the entire Greenstone interface has been translated into a range of languages, and the interface language can be changed by the user as they browse from the Preferences page.1
In addition to the freedom of organizing multimedia collections, Greenstone also offers customization of the interface and metadata formats. By default, Greenstone’s user interface has a very clean look and feel, but many libraries want to make their digital library site look more like their traditional library site for branding purposes (see Figure 9.2). To get ideas of what kinds of customizations have been done, you can view the list of example collections on the Greenstone official site (http://www.greenstone.org/examples). Waikato University manages its digital archive of the Illustrated London News (http://digital.liby.waikato.ac.nz) on Greenstone; see Figure 9.2.
Although Greenstone can be used for any type of digital collection, when it comes to storing data published by those within your institution, DSpace (http://dspace.org) seems to be the popular option.
The Illustrated London News2 on the University of Waikato website
The most common use of the DSpace software is by academic and research libraries as an open access repository for managing their faculty and student output. There are also many organizations using the software to host and manage subject based, dataset or media-based repositories.3
In addition to the ability to store various different data types (documents, images, videos, audio recordings, and so on) DSpace also offers a series of add-ons or plugins (http://dspace.org/add-ons-and-extensions/addons/) to extend the functionality of the application. In true open source fashion, DSpace also allows for customization of look and feel and metadata formatting (see Figure 9.3).
Like Greenstone, DSpace also allows for the creation of several different collections, which users can then browse or search through. This flexibility, a trademark of an open source application, is part of what makes this application the choice of so many institutions.
Greenstone and DSpace are well established tools for sharing digital collections with the outside world, but what about allowing the outside world to share its collections with us? Kete (http://kete.net.nz) turns the traditional digital library inside out by allowing the library to host and moderate the content added by community members.
Echoing the Maori proverb of the three baskets, or kete, of knowledge, we called our concept Kete. We really like what the kete represents. We like that they are ‘honest’, practical items, woven from found materials, and that anyone can learn to weave one. We like that they are made from flax, which springs forth from Papatuanuku, the earth mother. We like the link between the flax and the weaver – the person who caressed and shaped the flax into a beautiful or useful object. We like that kete are usually given from 1 person to another, so linking people together, and that they are usually given to mark an occasion so there are stories that surround a kete. When a kete is used and taken from one occasion to another, the stories are being told and the history preserved. The kete is an appropriate metaphor for our digital library, and the various types of material it contains.4
With Kete, a library can set up the software on its servers and then open up the content-adding tools to its community members. The library hosting the Kete instance gets to define who the ‘community members’ are. If you work in a public library your community might be anyone with a library card or anyone in the world. If you are in an academic or school library, your community may only consist of students and professors.
The community then decides what kinds of content are added to the digital library (see Figure 9.4). This is a great way to collect all of the treasures hiding in your patrons’ attics. Pieces of family histories are lost daily; with a tool like this available, community members can share their treasures without giving them up to the library. Kete Horowhenua (http://horowhenua.kete.net.nz) is the perfect example of how a community can get together to share their history with each other. Kete Horowhenua is a collection of digital resources managed by members of the community; see Figure 9.4.
Between the library and the community there are many amazing collections worth sharing with others. One or all of these tools can be used to make collections accessible through the library website to the wider world.
1.Witten, Ian H., Matt Jones, David Bainbridge, Polly Cantlon, and Sally Jo Cunningham. ‘Digital Libraries for Creative Communities.’ Digital Creativity 15, no. 2 (June 2004): 110–125.
3.‘DSpace Use Case Examples.’ DSpace. http://dspace.org/use-case-examples/DSpace-Use-Cases.html.
4.Ransom, Joann. ‘Kete Horowhenua: the story of the district as told by its people.’ Kete.net.nz, February 2008.http://kete.net.nz/blog/documents/show/33-kete-horowhenua-the-story-of-the-district-as-told-by-its-people.