Digital Commons: building digital communities using digital collections

Jim DelRosso, Web & Digital Projects Manager, Cornell University

To get people coming in, we need to build communities around the books.

Very successful digital repository – lots of buy-in from faculty, etc.

Why do communities form around physical libraries? They’re there for the collections and the reference help.  They form around physical collections because of interest, ownership, and investment. Interest leads to ownership which leads to investment.

Interest – what do users wants? What do users need? What do we do when these two things differ? When we do this on the reference desk, it’s a reference interview. When we do it with collections, that’s how we build interest in the collection. On a larger scale, it’s assessment.

What’s the value that we offer to our patrons?  What do they really need?  Outcome-based assessment leads to effective marketing.

What is Cornell doing? Tremendous outreach to faculty. Has a faculty liaison program, speaks at faculty meetings.  Surveys of constituencies – what are your research needs? Digging into Google analytics to see who’s using what and how they’re using it.

What still needs to be done? We need to dig deeper into how user audiences interact with collections.

Once the interest is established, a sense of ownership can be built with patrons.  One of the ways to create ownership is to find a way to add user-created content. Can also have user-sponsored content.  User-organized content – online material allows for user organization.

Cornell is uploading a lot of user content into their digital repository. They’re finding collections that are of use to their students and researchers and are adding to the collection, so it’s not just faculty research any more.

Uploading a lot of user-sponsored content. Faculty members will ask for a collection built around a specific subject.

But we’re still the ones doing the uploading – not that there’s anything wrong with that.  Doesn’t feel a need to let other people upload material to the repository.

What else can we do? Tagging? Powerhouse Museum in Australia allows tagging – anyone can add or remove a tag.  Networking? Browsing?

Investment – super-users. What does investment look like? You have users interacting more directly with the collection. You have users interacting more directly with librarians. The big thing is when you have users interacting directly with each other.

Investment looks a lot like community – around a digital space as well as around a physical space. We have the tools and the expertise through online content creation and management to let the community create a sense of ownership, which creates a sense of investment.


1 Comment

Filed under Libraries and Librarianship, Techie stuff

One response to “Digital Commons: building digital communities using digital collections

  1. Pingback: CiL 2010: Day 1 « The Nascent Librarian

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