DAM Ready Reference
by Deb Fanslow, MLIS
Often, DAM professionals are the sole information managers at the helm within an organization, tasked with ingesting, cataloging, managing, securing, distributing, preserving, and providing access to a collection of digital assets. This involves juggling a multitude of responsibilities, some of which are centered around designing and maintaining the information architecture of a DAM system:
- Designing and maintaining metadata schemas
- Developing taxonomies and controlled vocabularies
- Customizing search functionality
- Designing, configuring, and developing user interfaces
Digital asset management also involves many behind-the-scenes administrative tasks that are essential to keeping a DAM system well oiled and running, such as:
- Curating, cataloging, and managing digital assets throughout the digital asset lifecycle
- Developing, monitoring, and customizing workflows
- Monitoring, reporting, and analyzing DAM system statistics
- Creating and maintaining user accounts and permissions
- System maintenance (upgrades, bug fixes, upgrades, testing, patches, rebuilds, etc.)
- Planning and overseeing system customizations and integrations
Of course, beyond customizing and maintaining the DAM system and its information architecture, there’s also the not so trivial responsibility of determining and meeting user’s needs, including:
- Creating, documenting, and reviewing policies and procedures
- Providing technical support
- Developing and delivering training programs
- Designing web portals for internal and/or external user access
- User testing and feedback
Last but certainly not least, there’s the DAM program itself and the requisite ongoing planning, responsibilities, and maintenance that cannot be neglected, such as:
- Governance (metadata, taxonomy, workflow, rights management, distribution, storage, etc.)
- Digital preservation (asset integrity, storage management, disaster planning, etc.)
- Program management (strategic planning, staffing, budgeting, etc.)
- Advocacy and promotion campaigns
With this wide range of responsibilities on the digital asset manager’s plate, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. When faced with a DAM challenge, where’s a digital asset manager to turn? If you’re lucky, you can consult with a librarian, archivist, records manager, knowledge manager, or other information professional on staff who may be able to help you with burning questions such as:
- So many metadata standards, so little time…which fields do I really need?
- How can I integrate our enterprise taxonomy with my DAM system’s search platform?
- What steps can I take to best preserve my company’s digital assets for the long term?
However, if you’re the only person steering the DAM ship (or you just want to extend your personal learning network), another option is to tap into the knowledge base of those who have experience dealing with the management of digital collections and thorny information management challenges…the Library and Information Science (LIS) community.
First, the good news: the LIS community maintains a longstanding culture of sharing and publishing research, case studies, best practices, and lessons learned throughout its 50+ year history of information management (built upon knowledge organizational principles dating back to antiquity). Over the past two decades, a significant body of knowledge related to curating and managing digital asset collections has been amassed and published within the library, archival, and museum communities. Now for the bad news: not all of this information is freely available. Due to the longstanding publishing and tenure models within the scholarly community, access to a large portion of LIS knowledge sits secured behind scholarly database walls. However, thankfully there are many passionate info pros who also freely disseminate their wisdom on the web, just ripe for the picking.
Exploring the Virtual Reference Shelf
Below are links to some of my favorite free resources created by info pros who are involved with digital asset management within the public, private, and nonprofit sectors:
General DAM resources
- DAM Directory: created by and for the DAM community, this growing portal features annotated web resources on topics related to DAM as practiced within all industry sectors.
- Digital Asset Management: Content Architectures, Project Management, and Creating Order out of Media Chaos (Elizabeth Keathley, 2014): buy the complete paperback, or listen to these abridged podcasts for free!
- Content Technologies: DAM, CMS and Collections Management Systems – What’s the big dif? Leala Abbott, 2010): when is a CMS not a CMS? This article demystifies some of the tools and acronyms of the content management trade.
- CMSWire – John Horodyski: get your monthly educational fix from an industry expert whose highly cited articles cover a variety of DAM topics.
- Tell them what you want, what you really really want (Romney Whitehead, 2014): a brief article on the wisdom of listening to your users before choosing a DAM system.
- My Dos and Don’ts of a Corporate DAM (Digital Asset Management) (K. Lewandowska, 2014): real world advice from the trenches.
- Metadata (Marcia Lei Zeng, 2011): this website is an online textbook companion, which is worth browsing for its comprehensive reading lists and appendices of resources.
- Cultural Objects Digitization Planning: Metadata (Janice L. Eklund, 2012): if you’re planning an image digitization project, consult this guide from the Visual Resources Association to learn about questions to consider, minimal metadata requirements, and best practices.
- FADGI Guidelines: this set of guidelines from the Feds includes frameworks, methodologies, and technical recommendations for digitizing still images and audiovisual works.
- Video metadata modeling for DAM systems (Tom Bachmann, 2010): this article provides thorough and detailed coverage of metadata schema design for video.
- Descriptive Metadata in the Music Industry: Why It Is Broken And How to Fix It (Tony Brooke, 2014): this comprehensive report identifies the need for descriptive metadata standards specific to the music industry, along with a proposed metadata schema standard.
- Taxonomy Fundamentals Workshop (Marjorie M.K. Hlava, 2013): this presentation covers taxonomy basics, how to leverage and access taxonomies, and relevant standards to be aware of.
- Using a Taxonomy for Your Database or Website: A Look Behind the Scenes (Marjorie M.K. Hlava, 2013): this brief article balances technical information with well placed visuals to describe how taxonomies and thesauri are stored and associated within various types of databases.
- Taxonomies in Search (Marjorie M.K. Hlava, 2011): if you’re looking to learn more about how information retrieval works and how taxonomy drives effective search, look no further.
- Success Factors in Building an Enterprise Taxonomy (Stephanie Lemieux, 2014): this brief article lists several factors to consider before embarking on your next enterprise taxonomy project.
- What is Facet Analysis? (Ian Matzen, 2014): if you need to create a faceted classification system, this brief article presents a good introduction, along with examples and informative references.
- Taxonomy Bootcamp: for the past couple of years, presentations from this conference have been available for free online. Get ‘em while they’re hot!
- Digital Preservation Management: Implementing Short-term Strategies for Long-term Problems (Cornell University, 2012): if you’re new to digital preservation, definitely start here. This definitive guide is presented within the context of archival repositories, but the principles and resources are broadly applicable to commercial DAM systems (and programs!) as well.
- NEDCC: Free resources: this site provides extremely comprehensive resources, including planning documents, reading lists, tutorials, and even a Master’s level preservation curriculum.
- Caring for Digital Materials: Preventing a Digital Dark Age (2013): this free 5-webinar course presents best practices and case studies “that illustrate the best, and worst, experiences of cultural heritage institutions in their efforts to prevent a digital dark age.” Also included are webinar transcripts, as well as further resources and additional presentations.
- LC Recommended Format Specifications: not sure what format to use when digitizing and preserving your digital assets? Take a look at what the Library of Congress recommends.
- Creating and Archiving Born Digital Video – Part IV. Resource Guide (Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative, 2014): a thorough list of resources and tools for managing video.
- The Signal: Digital Preservation: this blog features posts related to digital stewardship from experts at the Library of Congress.
- Digital Asset Management is a Service-Oriented Profession (Ian Matzen, 2015): this article explains how to up your user support game by studying information seeking behavior and applying traditional reference interview principles.
User Experience (UX)
- How Do You Evaluate A DAM System’s User Interface? (Ian Matzen, 2015): this concise article features criteria and methods for performing both quick and cheap user interface evaluations.
- Building Better Metadata Creation Tools (Jenn Riley, 2014): administrative interfaces need love too.
- Semantics Archive (Peter Morville): gain some insight and practical information on IA and UX topics from one of the founders of the Information Architecture field.
- Linked Data for Libraries (OCLC, 2012): Got 15 minutes? Although this video is presented within the context of sharing bibliographic data, most of the concepts and visuals are universally applicable.
- Linked Data: Evolving the Web into a Global Data Space* (Tom Heath & Christian Bizer, 2011):
This free eBook provides a brief explanation of the concepts behind the Semantic Web and Linked Data, then progresses quickly into a highly detailed technical introduction.
*Although the following resources are not free, they are worthy of mention here. There are many additional books in the Synthesis Lectures on the Semantic Web: Theory and Technology series that are worth exploring, as well as those in the Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services series. For those interested in the history, concepts, and implementation of taxonomies, I strongly recommend Marjorie M.K. Hlava’s Taxobook series.
Now for some tips on discovering more elusive gems from within the academic LIS community. If you’re willing to spend a little time digging, you can always partake in one of my favorite activities…mining resources offered through DAM related academic courses and professional communities. It’s like being a student without the interminable loans and tests! Here are some tactics that have proven effective for unearthing all sorts of educational jewels:
- Examine a few syllabi for DAM related courses and topics, and you will often be rewarded with links to seminal research articles, recommended reading, blogs, conferences, presentations, and more. This can also be an excellent way to quickly profile and monitor DAM related topics, as well as identify relevant researchers, industry leaders, publications, terminology, issues, and challenges. Over time, you can even discover trends within the disciplines and fields themselves (assuming the institution you’re researching updates their curricula frequently in response to industry demands). Here are some of my favorite sources to start with:
- Discover pearls of DAM wisdom within scholarly hubs and open access publications such as:
- Libguides Community: search hundreds of academic libraries at once for interactive, educational guides to resources on many DAM related topics.
- ResearchGate: a free hub for publishing and connecting with academic researchers.
- Open access journals: Bulletin of the Association for Information Science and Technology, code4lib Journal, D-LIB Magazine, Information Technology and Libraries, International Journal of Digital Curation, Journal of Information Architecture, VRA Bulletin
- CLIR reports (Council on Library and Information Resources): here lies a significant body of reports related to digital libraries, digital preservation, and related topics.
- Take advantage of free or low cost DAM related resources and education available through LIS organizations, including:
- ASIS&T (Association for Information Science and Technology)
- LITA (Library and Information Technology Association)
- SAA (Society of American Archivists)
- AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists)
- MCN (Museum Computer Network)
- SPECTRUM DAM Resources (Collections Trust)
- VRA (Visual Resources Association)
- And of course, don’t forget about national libraries, many of which are involved in setting standards and best practices, exploring emerging technologies, and sharing educational resources.
Whether you work alone as a DAM Superhero or as part of a DAM team, the practice of digital asset management presents many universal challenges across all industries, as well as more specific strategies and solutions that can likely be adapted within diverse environments. When you’re faced with your next DAM challenge, don’t reinvent the wheel…leverage the collective intelligence of the entire DAM community!
About Deb Fanslow
Deb has over 7 years of experience in information management within the library, museum, and education fields. She specializes in Digital Asset Management (DAM), which is informed by working in the trenches for 13 years as a graphic designer within the publishing industry. She participates in the DAM industry as a Board Member of the DAM Foundation, the founder and head curator of The DAM Directory, and a co-organizer of the NYC DAM Meetup. Deb is a contributing writer for DAM News, and has also worked behind the scenes on various DAM educational initiatives, including DAM Guru Program and the #LearnDAM initiative.
Deb has been a DAM Guru Program member since February, 2014. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
DAM Guru Program recognizes this article as worthy of the #LearnDAM designation for materials that provide genuine digital asset management education without sales agendas. Search #LearnDAM on Google for more materials.