Sunday, October 15, 2006

VRA Great Lakes Chapter Fall Meeting 2006

It was my first time to a Visual Resource Association (VRA) meeting of any sort. As somewhat of an outsider (a corporate librarian), everyone made me feel very welcome.

Highlights of the meeting included presentations on OSU's Web Media Collective [WMC] (including highlights on OSU's VRL, the Harvey Goldberg Program for Excellence in Teaching, & the Knowlton School of Architecture's Digital Library) as well as copyright and copystands.

The meeting was held in the beautiful Knowlton School of Architecture’s Library.

Diane Dagefoerde, Director of the WMC, started the meeting describing the benefits of the WMC. Particularly appealing is the ability of the WMC to act as a liaison between the content producers as well as the end users and IT. Specifically, the WMC creates an atmosphere where the content producers can focus on what they know best--the content, and backend applications (backups, data migrations, database integrity, etc) are managed by technology experts. Speaking of which, George Abraham, Web Applications Developer, was particularly insightful on how the technical structures of the WMC integrated across different departmental resources.

Diane described one very interesting component within the WMC called The Colleges of Arts & Sciences Media Manager. The Media Manager provides faculty a centralized location to store their research images and other digital objects. However, by helping faculty collaborate, OSU's Media Manager provides much richer, value-added resources such as semi-formal collection development. Furthermore, if assistance with creating a formal collection (appropriate cataloging standards, etc.) is needed, the folks involved with the Media Manager can also help connect the faculty members to the appropriate resources.

The next speaker, Stephanie Bernhardt, Curator at OSU's VRL, described the visual resource library and its connection to the WMC. Stephanie spoke about how it was not feasible for OSU's History of Art department to purchase an off-the-shelf image database system. So, they built their own. Stephanie also introduced the VRL's Assistant Curators, Nora Kilbane and Michelle Maguire. Nora handles the digital operations including online courses, and Michelle handles the analog side of things.

One interesting point was brought up by Stephanie. She said that their data was still dirty after migrating from a 4D system, but the users have not seemed to complain. This reminded me of many discussions at KSU's SLIS. Specifically, a presentation by OCLC's George Needham drove home the point that most users are looking for good-enough. We [librarians] are in constant pursuit of accurate & detailed catalog records/metadata (or at least an acceptable balance given budgetary, time, and commitment constraints). Idealistically, I would like to see completely perfect records that are catalogued at a level three; however, I know this is logistically impossible. Yet, those who argue that our records should be just good enough are much more willing to forgo greater access. Then again, do people really search by DOI's and other obtuse descriptors?

The following speaker, Chris Aldridge, OSU History of Art Department's Web Content and Database Manager (and, interestingly enough, an alum of Sarah Lawrence like my family's good friend, Deena Fontana), spoke about the Harvey Goldberg Program. Because the collection is for a relatively small user group (around 160 faculty & grad students), there is no curator. Instead, Chris is the program's content manager. The same database has tiered levels of access--university-based and public. On the public side, E-History is an open access area which specializes in Civil War content.

Jane McMaster, Knowlton School of Architecture (KSA) Librarian, followed Chris. Jane briefly spoke about the specific limitations of ARTstor's collections for architecture libraries (currently ARTstor does not provide the necessary information for scholarship within architecture). Jane indicated that Archivision does a much better job meeting the needs of her constituents compared to ARTstor & Saskia. Jane also spoke about recent activities including her collaboration with Lorrie McAllister, KSA Visual Resource Curator, in order to obtain collection rights from the AIA, Columbus Historical Society, etc. Finally, Jane highlighted the excellent John H. Herrick Archives.

After Jane spoke, we headed over to OSU's Faculty Club and had a great lunch provided by OSU's History of Art Department. Directly after lunch, Joseph Romano, Chair of the Great Lakes chapter, conducted the organization's business meeting with Astrid Otey as "treasurer for life", Lesley Chapman as secretary, and the rest of the Great Lakes chapter members.

The first afternoon presentation was Carole Pawloski's summary of Peter Jaszi's Copyright Law, Image Policies & Guidelines for VR Collections. After a quick history of copyright, Carole discussed various sections within U.S. copyright code. Section 110 (exemptions) includes the TEACH Act which includes fair use for distance education, something I didn't know about. Carole also indicated that the Library of Congress' 108 Study Group (a committee of copyright experts who are particularly interested in digital copyright issues) will be hosting a roundtable January 31, 2007, and Carole indicated that the American Society of Media Photographers is resisting lenient copyrights laws in regards to orphan works. Finally, Carole said that if VR librarians continue to follow VRA guidelines and best practices they will be in little danger of litigation. One reason why non-profits (e.g. Universities, etc.) are not targets of litigation is because they have conservative policies; however, Carole indicated that VRL's should have their own guidelines reviewed by respected lawyers (per Jaszi). Carole also suggested the book Permissions, a survival guide : blunt talk about art as intellectual property.

The final presentation of the day was Michelle Maguire's summary of James T. van Rensselaer's Digital Copystand for Dummies: A Real Life Workshop for the Rest of Us!. Michelle had been placed in charge of photographing various objects within the OSU History Department's Museum of Classical Archaeology. The workshop Michelle attended helped her select and purchase a mid-priced camera (Cannon 5D, 12.8 megapixel, $3,300 [body only]). She indicated that the camera's body was like an analog 35mm camera--which meant that the camera did not feel foreign to her. Michelle reported that traditional copystands should have a 4' column and be sturdy up to its tallest height. She also reported that van Rensselaer suggested finding copystands on Ebay (specifically the Polaroid MP4). For lighting, Michelle said van Rensselaer suggested strobe lighting over anything else and that one should not use 150-watt photofloods because they are too hot and change color temperature. Finally, Michelle found that using a white backdrop worked much better than a black one (the black backdrop affects the image's color accuracy).

Again, the VRA Great Lakes Chapter Fall Meeting was a great success. I am so glad I was able to attend, and I look forward to becoming more involved in the VRA. If you would like to know more about the VRA or join the VRA's Great Lakes Chapter please visit the following links. - Visual Resource Association (VRA) - VRA Great Lakes Chapter

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