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Jim Kroll - Learning Resources

James Kroll
Manager, Western History & Genealogy, Denver Public Library
Interviewed 2/5/2010

James Kroll discusses the beginnings of DPL’s Western Heritage Program, participating in the American Memory Project of the Library of Congress, and successfully becoming self-sustaining.

“In many ways, it’s the public that drives the vision.”

Augie Maestro Giuseppe: A man with a vision
For DPL’s Western Heritage Program, Augie Maestro Giuseppe had a vision “that photo digitization could benefit the researcher in many ways.” Many of the projects discussed by the Digital Pioneers began with one, two or a few people with a shared vision. It was often a vision of creating improved access.

Sustainability: Developing funding sources
That DPL has been able to sustain their digitization program through photograph sales is proof that engaging the public makes the data more valuable and is a win-win for the library and the public. Invest income back into your project so that it can help make your project more sustainable by paying for salaries and equipment. Owning the equipment can simultaneously save on labor and generate more income and improve turnaround times. Determine the owner of the data at the outset since this will affect your ability to generate income from the sale of items based on the data. Creating greater accessibility increases relevance and renders the data more valuable since it has more meaning to more people.

Sustainability: The cost of funding your project long-term
Look at all the costs of funding your project long-term, including human resources, physical resources (i.e. building space and data storage), financial resources, new technologies and the cost of replacing old equipment. Like a business, you need to have reserves in place for both anticipated and unanticipated costs.

Lack of standards, best practices and a workflow process
You may have to develop your own standards, best practices and workflow processes since none exist yet.

Technical expertise
You will need a person on your team to have technical expertise: software, metadata, catalogers, researchers, etc.

Increased demand and income due to greater exposure
Becoming part of an even larger project will expose your project to a greater audience. Being invited by the Library of Congress to join the American Memory project lead to much wider exposure for DPL’s Western Heritage Program. This exposure, in turn, lead to a dramatic increase in photograph sales. For the past ten years, annual photograph sales have grossed between $130,000 and $150,000 a year. This income has paid for salaries of technicians, supplies and equipment and has essentially allowed the program to become self-sustaining as a result of these sales.

Collaborations and public demand open up your project to different materials besides photographs including maps, works of art, architectural drawings, manuscript collections, rare books, etc.

The public’s demands drive the vision
The vision needs to respond to the community’s needs. “In many ways, it’s the public that drives the vision.” – James Kroll

You will need to become more creative in your grant applications, i.e. making the project not just about photo digitization, but about photo digitization as part of a larger project.

Main issue: digital preservation
The main concern is how long will the digital files last.

Choosing a vendor
Check to see if a vendor has consistently made enhancements to their product. This will be indicative of their investment in and future support of the product.

Advice for students preparing to work with digital objects
“You want to be as flexible as possible. You want to be as nimble in your thinking as possible.”