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Liz Bishoff - Transcript

Liz Bishoff
Director, Digital and Preservation Service, BCR, Inc.
Interviewed 12/3/2009

-- Beginnings --

[How did you originally become involved in digitization?]

I’m a librarian, by training, and—actually, next year will be my fortieth year, which it’s hard to believe that I’ve spent that long working in libraries and—cultural heritage organizations. I’ve done all type of library work, primarily working in public libraries initially, but I’ve also been a school librarian and I spent ten years at OCLC and—got involved with some early digital initiatives in the late—1980’s working with the Library of Congress when they started doing some experimenting with digitization and putting digital content on videodiscs with the idea that they would be able to share their collections with the country by distributing content on videodiscs.

And—I had family here in Colorado and decided that we would move here to Colorado. And the Colorado State Library and some really innovative librarians here in Colorado in the late 1990’s had decided that we really needed to see how we were going to expand access to collections in Colorado’s libraries. And they already had something called Colorado Virtual Library which provided access to the library catalogs. And the main thing that they were missing at that time were access to special collections. And the Denver Public Library had already begun their innovative NEH-funded project of digitizing materials from their collections and from public library collections around the state. So we knew that digitization was possible.

So the state library had a small LSTA grant to see how digitization might be able to be used to bring the small special collections from libraries into the Colorado Virtual Library. But in their discussions they realized that to make a full picture of—Colorado’s heritage, they really needed to bring in the collections from museums as well as archives and historical societies. So they issued an—they created an LSTA grant. And they needed a project manager. And I was available, and I became the project manager for what became the Colorado Digitization Project, or the CDP. And that was in the fall of 1998. And from there, the Colorado Digiti—Colorado Digitization Project became the Colorado Digitization Program, which became the Collaborative Digitization Program, which la—this year in 2009, celebrated its tenth anniversary. It’s the oldest, multi-type cultural heritage digitization collaborative in the country. And—has established best practices, training, and standards that are used by collaboratives across the country and in fact, internationally. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

-- Challenges --

[What challenges did you face?]

The big issues that we had when we brought museums and libraries and archives together was we lacked a common vocabulary. We all had the same goal of increasing access to our collections, but how to do it was a challenge. And we had to get—we had to establish a common vocabulary. Because what—the term “catalog” in a library means one thing; and in a museum means another. So we had just basic things to get through.

Back in the—late nineties, we had community-based standards but we didn’t have national standards like NISO or ISO because things were still evolving. So we were some of the first people to apply Dublin Core to cultural heritage content. We didn’t have—content management systems, things like contentDM were first coming out. And yet we knew we didn’t just want to build our own. So there were a lot of issues that nobody had addressed yet. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

-- Hindsight --

[In hindsight what would you have done differently?]

Having—an institutional affiliation is very critical. In the development of the collaborative, having a solid foundation, a home, is very important. And I think that both Nancy Allen and I, who were the major leaders – two of the major leaders, there were others – coming up with that solid foundation, that home, institutional home, was a critical issue throughout the life of the CDP. And I think that the successful digital collaboratives are ones that have solid institutional homes. So for example, Alabama Mosaic has a home with the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries. The Missouri Project has a home with the State Library of Missouri. So those where they have solid homes have long term success. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

-- Advice --

[What advice would you give to recent graduates?]

The sustainability in every area of digitization is the key issue. We are great at creating digital content regardless of our finding sources we have managed to created millions and millions of digital objects across this country. The problem that we have is sustainability. And sustainability comes down in two specific areas. The broad area of organizational sustainability, and that—that’s people, money, and you know, institutional support. And the second area is sustainability of the digital objects. The long term access, digital preservation. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

July 2012