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Showing posts from December, 2019

The Smithsonian’s Journey of Computerized Library and Archives

The Smithsonian Institution, with its 19 museums, 20 libraries and 14 archival units, prioritizes sharing our resources and discovering knowledge with the public.  Today, 15.5 million library, archives and museum objects and 10.4 million images are online to support research, education and public service.  It has been a challenging but rewarding journey to transform a manual and paper-based Smithsonian into the digital Smithsonian of today.  This evolution of automated library and archives systems and the collaboration that made it all possible at the Smithsonian is impressive, and I wrote these three blogs to share this history with you.


Ahead of Its Time from the Beginning
At its inception, the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (SIL) depended on paper card catalogs.  In 1965, the SIL began to slowly convert from the Dewey Decimal System to the Library of Congress’s cataloging classification system.  Simultaneously, it began to t…

The Smithsonian’s Journey of Computerized Library and Archives (1994-2009)

Read Part I: The First Integrated Library System
Read Part III:  Increasing Access Through Broader and Deeper Reach

Jump starting and Supporting Digitization

In 1994, OIRM SIRIS began a new venture in the field of library and archives automation: the support of online media files.   At the time, the Smithsonian had several Collection Information Systems including the library’s system, but no catalog records were linked to images or video files, which prohibited public access.   
With a newly implemented internet, we modified a new WebPac application configuration to enable images to display with catalog records online, demonstrating the technical potential to library and archives staff. This new and exciting feature required Smithsonian staff to digitize images and then link the image files to catalog records by referencing the image URL in the MARC 856 field.  It was a challenge to get started because no one knew how this would work, so we had to lead …

The Smithsonian’s Journey of Computerized Library and Archives (2010-2019)

Read Part I : The First Integrated Library System
Read Part II:  Stepping Outside of the Box 


Contributing to the start of Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)
The idea of a national digital library had been circulating among librarians, scholars, educators, and private industry representatives in the United States since the early 1990s.  The DPLA planning process began in October 2010 at a meeting in Cambridge, M.A. During this meeting, 40 leaders from libraries, foundations, academia, and technology projects agreed to work together to create an open and distributed network of comprehensive online resources which are provided by the U.S. libraries, archives, universities and museums.    

The planning team solicited ideas for how this open platform should work and received hundreds of responses from around the country.  Martin Kalfatovic of Smithsonian Libraries approached me for possible ideas. We decided to work with the …