Why your DAM Needs an Asset Librarian

Content access for internal and external users

Media archives, like the one my team supports at a global news organization, are primarily an internal resource to meet internal needs, including editorial, production or general business and operations. No matter the function, everyone wants the ability to search, review, select and edit video for their requirements; DAM librarians make that happen quickly and reliably.

While direct public access to a news organization’s archive is generally not available, some media outlets support third-party access. For example, a DAM or MAM librarian could help a network make select content accessible via its stock footage and licensing partners, and some content could be available for academic needs and research through universities or the Library of Congress.

Everyone who produces and owns content wants to protect their intellectual property. They know the value of their content and appreciate the responsibility of maintaining their archives for commercial use and IP protection. News organizations also have a bigger responsibility to document history and culture as it unfolds, and to protect the record for future generations.

Approaches to DAM and MAM workflows

News and broadcast production workflows, the example that I know best, have evolved with technology and transformed from analog, tape-based content to all-digital content and all-digital workflows. In this time of constant information update and short news production cycles, there’s an accelerated need to capture, deliver, produce, broadcast and archive. Nobody waits for someone to “pull a tape;” everyone wants and expects content at their fingertips.

MAM and DAM systems are built on complex tools and sophisticated technologies. Successfully deploying these technologies comes via a marriage of best practices between technology, operations, information systems, production and library management systems.

According to Irving and Fu, a DAM librarian guides his or her employer to what a successful DAM system can achieve. Employers and business units within companies often want a DAM to be all things to all people. Some managers envision the DAM tool as a website for uploading groups of assets linked to metadata. Other organizations push for a DAM system to be a password-protected review platform with a host of plug-ins for marking up assets.

“A DAM system should be a central location and ‘moment of truth’ where anyone in the organization can find an image, logo, InDesign or other asset in less than 5 minutes and see how and why the asset has been used, including information about whether the asset can be used again,” adds Irving. “The DAM has to be well organized and easy to use on the front end. And on the back end, the DAM librarian is there to tag assets, add metadata and archive.”

It doesn’t matter how good the technology is if the user can’t find what they are looking for. Regardless of the asset types, everything needs to be organized. Metadata need to be robust, concise and standardized, and that requires someone with an understanding of the assets as both content and intellectual property.

Librarians are at the intersection of these disciplines. They bring order to what might otherwise be chaos; they maximize transparency for “findability” that dives to the depths of a collection of media assets.

DAM is an easy idea wrapped around a complicated solution. These systems are living, breathing ecosystems that require on-going management; when managed best, they become, as Fu and Irving note, the one source of truth for an organization’s digital assets. The responsibility for a digital archive is theoretically forever, and even if it’s not used regularly, it must work flawlessly when needed. Users should find the technology intuitive, simple and effective.

The librarians who can manage this are far more than a last-minute addition to a DAM team. The digital asset librarian is the fulcrum. Librarians looking for new opportunities, or beginning their careers, should think beyond traditional roles and research the critical role they can play in digital or media asset management.

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