Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners meeting at CMU

by Marian Matyn

Central Michigan University hosted the third Mid-Michigan Digital Practitioners (MMDP) regional meeting in the Park Library on September 18, 2014. Fifty people attended. We enjoyed meeting, networking, collaborating, and sharing digital project experiences and information. The attendees are mostly archivists and librarians behind the scenes who are responsible for the various technical and digital efforts involved in getting information in various formats into searchable digital repositories, developing project processes for converting reel-to-reel tapes or microfilmed newspapers for digital repositories, dealing with storage and access issues of digital information, or the conversion of data, or changing from one major storage/access system to another, and numerous other issues and concerns.

For those readers who do not work with archival digital information, please know that there are a lot of demands from patrons and administrators upon those of us who are digital practitioners. Currently, digital information, especially in searchable repositories, is a very hot commodity. It is impressive in general, especially to administrators and the public. A lot of information that was previously paper-based is now digital. Lots of non-digital collections are also being converted to digital format. There are a lot of challenges in staying updated with the rapidly changing technologies. The issues of security, access, space, cost, quality, staff education and training, and third party vendors, are a few of the issues digital practitioners juggle. A paper-based collection may be left on a shelf in a cool, secure room and it will likely remain in good condition and be easily accessible in 50 and 100 years. Digital information systems change monthly. Other digital challenges include: future access, maintaining the integrity of the data and storage as systems morph, conducting appraisal, and providing good quality reformatting and metadata.

MMDP is one of two such groups in Michigan. The first group is in the Detroit and Ann Arbor area, land of major archival institutions and the University of Michigan and Wayne State library/information schools. There are also numerous DP groups around the country. For many of us in mid-Michigan, the Detroit metro area is too far and too expensive to travel on a regular basis, especially if you are the lone archivist. Attending national-level workshops is also expensive and time-consuming usually involving air travel and several nights in a hotel. Few of us have time, funding, or sufficient staff to go away for several days. I heard about the Detroit metro group and thought of many of the smaller archives and historical societies that the Clarke Historical Library works with or has worked with in the mid-Michigan area who are dealing with digital and other issues and are struggling to attend training and find mentors. We do what we can to help, but it is always good to network with others and learn about current projects state-wide. So, I asked Ed Busch at Michigan State University (MSU) if there was some way to begin a group for the mid-Michigan area. Ed is now the coordinator of MMDP. Thank you Ed! There is an MMDP planning group which helps decide when and where the meetings will be held and plans the program agenda. The first meeting was held at MSU and the second at Grand Valley State University.

Registration and food are free in an effort to make it possible for as many of those who wish to attend to do so. Attendees for the CMU meeting came from Albion College, Albion District Library, Alpena Public Library, Bentley Historical Library at UM, CMU, Ferris State University, Grand Valley State University, Hope College, Ingham County Genealogical Society, the Internet Archive, Library of Michigan, Michigan Humanities Council, MSU, Northwestern Michigan College-Osterlin Library, Oakland University, The Henry Ford, a private archives, Traverse Area District Library, UMSI, UM, Wayne State University, Western Theological Seminary, and Willard Library (Battle Creek). We usually average about 50 attendees at the meetings.

Every meeting includes various presentations about projects and systems and time to network. Networking is invaluable as it allows attendees the chance to find someone who is doing something you need to or want to do, someone to guide you, boost your confidence, share insights, or commiserate with. Overall the meeting went very well and we received lots of positive feedback.

All of the major presentations given in the Park auditorium were recorded and all attendees were asked to submit copies of their powerpoint presentations. All of these presentations are available on the MMDP site. Also, MMDP now has its own listerv, which you may subscribe to, even if you are not a MMDP member, via this link.

The next meeting will be held in spring 2015 in Ann Arbor. The date and location are yet to be announced. I will post about it on my blog. I hope a lot of the Wayne State and UM schools of information will present. I always enjoy learning about what current college students or recent grads are accomplishing in their work and projects.

I wish to thank everyone who volunteered to assist me in any way with the local arrangements of MMDP at CMU. Thanks to: Jen Bentley, Mark Prindiville, Sandra Standish and her students, Kim Hagerty and her students, Kai Niezgoda and Ali Wilson, Kari Chrenka, Chris Clare, Bryan Whitledge, and Randy Claypool. Also, a big thank you from all of us to Sandra B. Croll, whose endowment to the Clarke helped fund all the delicious food MMDP attendees enjoyed.

If you have any questions, please contact me at or 989.774.3990.