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Why your DAM Needs an Asset Librarian

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A new role for librarians: digital asset librarian

Last fall, I participated in a webinar to discuss the inner workings of 24-by-7 media archive management and digital research. The webinar, and the forum of which it was a part, examined the media and publishing landscape and digital news marketplace, and what that means for research libraries. My audience was librarians, and my message was that librarianship is more than a nice-to-have DAM or media archive management (MAM) resource; it’s a must-have.

Large media concerns have been grappling with new resources and capabilities they need to manage, store and preserve digital news. And as noted by Bernard Reilly, president of the Center for Research Libraries and the webinar moderator, digital news is being produced at a speed and scale exponentially greater than the analog world, introducing new concerns like the extent to which media organizations can maintain this content and manage rights and authorship.

Librarians support 24-by-7 workflow requirements

In my experience, it takes a large, embedded team of librarians to support the daily digital media and information workflow for top-tier news organizations. A team like this requires players who have traditional library experience and library information service educational backgrounds as well as video, media management, media archives and metadata experience. Here’s why:  In the broadcast news industry, you need team members who can perform critical information services such as:

  • Managing content traffic and prioritization to and from petabytes of digital archive storage;
  • Facilitating access to all assets in either physical or digital form; including support of “on-demand” digitization of requested physical media assets;
  • Curating daily content into “highlights packets” to help editorial teams digest the fire hose of video information they deal with every day;
  • Curating the collection overall, including prioritizing digitization for long-term preservation based on a complex collection management analysis.
  • System administration, including administering user access and working closely with IT to define, refine and troubleshoot systems as needed.

A successful team might also include a group of research analysts who can dive deeply into backgrounds, facts and other supporting data for news stories. Their work might involve a range of topics from contact info or background reports to statistics such as gun violence data over a fixed period of time or U.S. candy consumption during the holiday season.

Content variety: video, audio, documents, transcripts, graphics, raw logs

Content is now mostly born digital and has been for almost a decade, yet a DAM librarian and his or her team has to support legacy videotape and film assets in a variety of formats, going back decades, including not only finished material but raw footage, works in progress, multiple versions and outtakes. In addition, other content may include transcripts, logs, audio, photos and graphics along with rights and usage information. A media company’s archive might be comprised of millions of assets, not all of them available digitally, but nonetheless managed as an asset of record within the DAM system and accessible to a digital asset librarian to access and digitize on demand and make available quickly as needed.

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