Controlled Vocabulary for DAM

by Tracy Wolfe, MLIS

One of the ingredients essential to a successful digital asset management implementation is a controlled vocabulary. A controlled vocabulary (CV) is simply an established group of terms used to describe assets in the DAM. Controlled vocabulary can help users search more effectively. Most importantly, a controlled vocabulary lends consistency and ease for anyone adding assets to the library.

Controlled vocabularies are used for websites all the time, especially to enable search on e-commerce sites. Employing the same techniques for DAM makes sense, as many users expect the DAM search experience to mimic the internet.

What is the best way to create a controlled vocabulary? Whether you need a couple hundred keywords to describe your content or several thousand (or millions), the steps to initiating the vocabulary are similar. Depending on the complexity of the filters and metadata fields you choose to utilize, you may construct more than one CV to back-up your DAM system.

This article explains the basics of creating a term list. These steps can be repeated to create multiple lists for use in facets, filters or hierarchies forming the basis for a DAM taxonomy.

  1. Before collecting terms, first consider the content you need to describe. Do your assets focus entirely on one product or initiative or many? How do people in the organization talk about the content?
  2. Who will be responsible for maintaining the CV? Will the DAM manager add or change terms, or will multiple people share this responsibility? Either way, write down instructions or guidelines for adding or changing terms.
  3. Think about the users. If your DAM is internal and everyone in the organization shares the same language surrounding the assets, you will require fewer terms that may be very industry specific. If you will be serving both internal and external users (like vendors or travel agents or franchise owners, etc.), the keywords or terms will need to be more universal.
  4. Is there an established vocabulary available to provide a starting point? There are quite a few vocabularies available as examples or models depending on the subject matter. From Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) to the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), librarians have compiled trusted standard vocabularies for many domains.
  5. How does the DAM system handle tagging or keywording? Are hierarchies allowed or will your workflow be more streamlined if the keywords are attached to files prior to ingestion? Should the vocabulary be a text file, Excel file or built in some other way?
  6. Okay, now the fun part begins. If you are building the vocabulary from scratch or adapting another vocabulary, you will collect terms from various sources. Decisions will be made regarding the final set of terms and all of this work should be documented for future reference.

Where can you find terms for the controlled vocabulary?

  • Does your organization have a website? Check out the site map and the search logs to find words that users use to search.
  • How do people in the organization describe what you do? If you sell a product or products, will you need a list of brand names? What departments will be supported by the DAM? Will the users search on things like color for design purposes?
  • Are you describing photos, videos, audio files or more? Consider the differences in describing two-dimensional versus moving images and the breadth of additional terms that could enhance findability of all types of media files.
  • Look at similar organizations. Competitor’s websites, trade journals, and articles on the internet can all provide ideas for a term list.

At this point, you probably have a list of many words. It is time to organize the terms, establish hierarchies if applicable, and to decide on preferred terms and synonyms or variants. A standard way to go about this is to designate broad terms and narrower terms.

In this example, we will look at the term Handbags and the broad terms (BT) and narrow terms (NT) related to Handbags.

(BT) Accessories

(NT) Bucket Bags

(NT) Crossbody Bags

(NT) Totes

Naturally, this type of work is sometimes challenging in a group, so agreeing upon the decision making process, primarily which keywords will “win” or be included, is the most crucial step at the outset. Like any document, the vocabulary can be edited and altered over time, but finalizing the initial list will allow it to be tested and used to inform these updates.

Once a controlled vocabulary is in use, reviews and updates are always expected, but the main advantage of having created the vocabulary in the first place is consistency. Maintenance of the CV can be ongoing or the vocabulary can be reviewed and refined periodically. Make sure to include the controlled vocabulary in the overall best practices and standards for the DAM.

The best thing about a controlled vocabulary is the improved findability of assets. Knowing what to expect by having a framework for describing assets helps both when adding assets and when performing searches. The time invested in building a controlled vocabulary will provide a huge return and positively impact the experience surrounding the digital asset management system in your organization.

About Tracy Wolfe

Tracy Wolfe worked as an advertising producer for 13 years and managed a digital asset management system at DDB. Tracy pursued an MLIS at San Jose State University as a result, focused on emerging technologies and has been working in DAM or search ever since. Tracy managed a DAM at Corbis Images for a high profile non-profit client and is currently working in Search Strategy at Getty Images. Ms. Wolfe’s interests include taxonomy, helping creative users find assets, and streamlining pretty much any process. Tracy has been involved with digital asset management for almost ten years.

Tracy has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2013. Connect with Tracy on LinkedIn.

Read more from the “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” DAM Guru Program series »

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM 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.

DAM and the Art of Governance

by Tracy Wolfe, MLIS

Governance is defined by as ‘government; exercise of authority; control.’ In a digital asset management scenario, the most basic definition of governance boils down to which users have access to which assets and why. A solid governance strategy stretches beyond this to encompass the parameters of the system itself, as well as the information traveling with each asset within that confine.

Naturally, different DAM systems handle user governance differently with permissions on an asset level or more commonly, by folders or galleries in combination with user groups. Sound complicated? It can be, especially if proper planning, communication and documentation is lacking.

Do you really want the design studio preparing the annual report to have access to the photos of your company’s CEO at the holiday party? Are there rights managed images in your DAM and would it be costly and embarrassing to be slapped with an infringement for usage on the web if the licensing is for print only? Does this all make your head spin when you multiply the number of DAM users by the number of assets and possible combinations?

If so, do not fret. There are ways to simplify governance and to ensure that the proper folks have access to only the assets needed, no matter how your DAM system is structured. And, while a ton of articles mention that governance is important in terms of best practices for DAM, not many discuss how to actually implement a governance strategy, to discuss the topic with DAM users and stakeholders, to manage the inevitable changes and how to retain your own sanity in the process.

First and foremost, a governance strategy for digital asset management should be distinctly different from the IT governance plan for the organization overall. When developing a governance strategy for a DAM system, take into consideration the following things:

  1. What is your organization’s organizational culture? If the culture is somewhat loose, as in many creative agencies, simplicity will be key in establishing governance practices.
  2. If the DAM system will be used by multiple departments, set up a governance committee at the outset with members representing each user group and IT. Meet briefly and frequently – communication is key.
  3. Decide who will apply metadata, how will it be applied, and who will create the metadata. Will it be partially a result of embedded fields like IPTC or will there be a set of pre-defined elements or a standard employed like Dublin Core?
  4. Is there an established taxonomy or controlled vocabulary? If not, can you collect data to establish a controlled vocabulary? In conjunction with the vocabulary, can you utilize a single taxonomy or classification hierarchies organization-wide?
  5. Do you need a retention policy and retention schedules? Do your assets expire or lose relevance over time? Is there a need to archive assets after a certain point? Document all of this, no matter how minute or obvious it may seem now.

Whether you are launching DAM for the first time in your company, reigning in a system that has been in place for some time, or simply revamping the policies already in place, governance strategy should be well documented. A good DAM manager, like a librarian who is differentiating between reference-only items and circulating materials, will keep records. These may take the form of spreadsheets or flowcharts in a secure location delineating user group permissions, asset restrictions, metadata fields both required and optional, workflows, controlled vocabulary terms and taxonomy structure.

Additional tools can be used to store user logins, manage taxonomy, and automate metadata application, complementing and contributing to the governance strategy.

The most important aspects of the governance strategy are the organizational buy-in on the policies for digital asset management and the documentation of these rules. The benefit will be the ease of decision-making enabled by an established governance plan. Don’t worry about how formal or official these policies may be – the value is in having the discussions leading to the creation of the governance plan and simply in having it all written down.

About Tracy Wolfe

Tracy Wolfe worked as an advertising producer for 13 years and managed a digital asset management system at DDB. Tracy pursued an MLIS at San Jose State University as a result, focused on emerging technologies and has been working in DAM or search ever since. Tracy managed a DAM at Corbis Images for a high profile non-profit client and is currently working in Search Strategy at Getty Images. Ms. Wolfe’s interests include taxonomy, helping creative users find assets, and streamlining pretty much any process. Tracy has been involved with digital asset management for almost ten years.

Tracy has been a DAM Guru Program member since 2013. Connect with Tracy on LinkedIn.

Read more from the “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” DAM Guru Program series »

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM 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.

How DAM Guru Program is Managed

How DAM Guru Program is Managed

New case study offers behind-the-scenes view into management system

Many questions come in about how we managed DAM Guru Program. Some assume we use an automated matching algorithm that connects members based on interests and experience. In fact, no DGP operations are automated. Every member match, GuruTalk profile, member webinar, tweet and DAM job post are considered by program managers to ensure they will offer value to members.

When you consider how hit-and-miss the “maybe you know this person” suggestions are on social media, you can better appreciate that effectively connecting and promoting our members requires the actions of people who know our membership and understand what they’re trying to do.

DAM Guru Program membership data is managed using Picturepark digital asset management software. This won’t surprise those who know that Picturepark created and continues to sponsor DAM Guru Program operations, but “we got the DAM for free” wasn’t the reason we chose Picturepark as a platform. After all, the management of people is more typically done using a CRM, like Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics. We consider those systems and more, but Picturepark has one thing that other DAMs and CRMs lack: Adaptive Metadata schemas. As it turned out, this made Picturepark the best candidate for managing our “human asset” members.

DAM Guru Program’s Picturepark instance has been featured in an in-depth case study. See how the system was designed by program managers and DGP member, Deb Fanslow. Learn what worked and didn’t work so well when it was launched, and see the potential if offers for future DGP member opportunities.

Read about the DAM Guru Program Picturepark system »

Standards and Metadata

by Lisa Grimm, MA, MS-LIS

While librarians love global standards and useful metadata, even within the traditional library, we can be confronted a less-than-consistent institutional approach to those standards, and even wider variation in the tools used to maintain good metadata. That’s especially true in the DAM world, where things like Dublin Core or MeSH can sound like mysterious codes, or even foreign languages, to someone who didn’t attend library school. And if you’ve come into the field from a ‘straight tech’ or marketing route, you may feel you already know everything you need to about metadata – it’s always been important for search and SEO, and few people knew or cared about standards there, right? On the flip side, degreed librarians may throw their hands up in dismay at how different DAM vendors approach metadata management – those global standards can be difficult to implement, even with the best of intentions. Let’s try to clear up the picture.

Types of Metadata

As a DAM professional, you already know the value of good metadata – you can’t find or properly manage your assets without it. You’re already using a variety of flavors of metadata within your DAM – some of it is descriptive, to help power your DAM’s search capability; some is administrative, so you can track an asset’s usage and rights, while those free-text fields may serve as a catch-all for everything that didn’t quite fit – or as a workaround for something your system doesn’t do without considerable tinkering. NISO likes to add a third broad category for structural metadata, but that’s (usually) less relevant to a DAM – it may be called upon to drive display or layout of a page, printed or otherwise. If you’ve spent a lot of time working with XML or ePub files, you’ll know what structural metadata looks like, but it’s less generally applicable to your images, illustrations and videos, at least within the DAM itself – they may certainly end up being called or described in those files in the wild. Whether you knew it or not, you have an in-house metadata model, and you may want to refine it or change it altogether.

Controlled Vocabularies & Benefits

Librarians love controlled vocabularies, and tend to wax lyrical about their favorites, like the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). But for our purposes here, a controlled vocabulary can be as simple as a picklist in a dropdown menu.

If you can pre-populate your DAM’s metadata fields with commonly-used terms and names that make sense for your DAM, you can reduce the scope for user error, thus ensuring that you keep your assets easily findable – no typos or three different names for the same agency or product (though more on related terms in a moment). Of course, that may not be as easy as it should be with your system – but we’ll look at some strategies there in a moment as well.

Another benefit of going with an existing standard is interoperability with other systems;: if your DAM ties into other systems, be they for rights management, HR, licensing or translation, using the same internationally-recognized standards for your metadata model may make everyone’s lives easier as digital objects travel across your technology ecosystem.

Existing Standards

First off, there are a lot of standards out there. Committees have spent unpaid months and years creating and refining them, and most of the time, they’ve ended up with a pretty sensible set of terms for their given brief – no matter how specialized your assets are, one of the existing standards is probably a good fit, at least as a baseline, so there’s no need to start from scratch. We’ll look closely at the more generally applicable ones, and then mention a few specialized options.

Dublin Core

Dublin Core or, more fully, the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI), has been around in one form or another since 1995, when it was first mooted to help give more structure to web resources to make them findable – something any DAM professional can empathize with. The ‘Dublin’ in question here isn’t the one in Ireland, but rather, Dublin, Ohio – the initial workshop, sponsored by OCLC and NCSA. OCLC, known by its initials to any library professional, maintains (among other things) WorldCat, the global catalog that stores data from more than 170 libraries around the world. NCSA produced the first widely-adopted browser, Mosaic, which would eventually be reborn, phoenix-like, as Mozilla Firefox – but we digress.

Getting up to speed on Dublin Core is easy. (There are regular webinars on the DCMI site, but they may be more in-depth than what you need if you’re just beginning to implement some basic metadata standards.) You can learn a lot just by looking at some Dublin Core in action, whether it’s expressed in XML or in the metadata fields your DAM has already.

The beauty of Dublin Core is that it’s nearly endlessly extensible, though its core of 15 top-level categories, known now as the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set, are broadly applicable to almost any digital object. They will look like (at least vaguely) familiar metadata fields to most DAM users. Indeed, some systems have nothing much further than free text fields with these labels when they first arrive, out of the box:

  1. Title
  2. Creator
  3. Subject
  4. Description
  5. Publisher
  6. Contributor
  7. Date
  8. Type
  9. Format
  10. Identifier
  11. Source
  12. Language
  13. Relation
  14. Coverage
  15. Rights

But these fields, and the large variety of other Dublin Core descriptive terms available, may be used differently in different DAM solutions. And not every field, even of the core fields, is relevant to your particular assets. So it’s all about customization; we’ll dig into that below.


On the face of it, XMP sounds fantastic – you can embed (much of) the metadata you need right into your digital object! You can even use Dublin Core or another existing standard as the starting point. But actually implementing XMP as a standard for your DAM can be tricky, unless you have total control over the creative process from start to finish, since XMP is generally embedded via Adobe Photoshop or Bridge (XMP began life at Adobe, after all). Getting agencies to understand and follow your ‘rules’ isn’t always as straightforward as it should be, and while some DAMs do let you add XMP to assets, often, you need to rely on whomever created the file – and even then, it may not apply itself to every file type.

Another question to consider is whether your DAM’s search can index XMP – is that information being used by your system, or is it lost in the ether? That said, XMP can still be useful, even if it’s not powering your DAM’s search results. Licensing and other rights information can be built in and tracked throughout the asset’s life cycle, provided, of course, the XMP actually travels along with the file as advertised. As of this writing, there is certainly potential, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth for most time-crunched DAM administrators.

Other Standards – MeSH, ULAN, AAT, etc…

Even if you do opt for Dublin Core (or a Dublin Core-light) approach, you may want to seek out some of the more specialized options that exist. If your DAM supports medical or pharmaceutical assets, MeSH may be useful. For art-related collections, ULAN and AAT are incredibly thorough. There are many other unique standards, and in most cases, you can use them as a sort of ‘bolt on’ to your main underlying metadata model.

Customization and Implementation – the ‘How’

Once you (think) you have settled on a model, the real work begins – figuring out how to actually get your chosen model into the system, and how you want to approach applying it to your assets, whether they are newly-imported or legacy files. And while some DAMs will let you test and preview changes within the system, that’s more the exception than the rule, so we’ll assume for our purposes here that much of the upfront work will need to be done outside the system – then we’ll move on to implementation.

1. Analyze existing data:

  1. Does your DAM store user search terms, abandoned searches and user journeys through the system? This is wildly useful in refining your model, especially if you want to use, say, Dublin Core, but you notice that your users don’t seem to employ terms like Creator or Contributor. If collapsing those two fields into something more like ‘Agency’ or ‘Photographer’ works better, that’s great information.
  2. Are there metadata fields that are left consistently blank? It may be that you don’t need them, or that their purpose isn’t understood and that they need to be re-labeled.
  3. Do you have free-text fields that would be better served with drop-downs (e.g. list of agency names, products, countries)? Make note of them before you move on to the next stage.

2. Avoid metadata overkill:

  1. More isn’t always better. Not only do you need to make sure your fields are properly filled out, but if you have too many search terms, you may not get granular enough results.
  2. Just because a field exists in Dublin Core (or another existing standard) doesn’t mean you need to use it, or to use it in the ‘preferred’ way. If something else works better for your organization, feel free to make changes; just be consistent in your approach.
  3. Consider the maintenance ramifications if you do use a large number of fields – what happens if you need to modify them? This may be only a minor consideration for some DAMs, and a huge lift for others.

3. Plot out your proposed changes:

  1. Hit the spreadsheets! Before doing anything else, list your current metadata fields and any controlled vocabularies (whether they are in a dropdown or maintained elsewhere).
  2. On another tab, list your would-be changes, and note how they map to, or replace, existing fields. Color-coding can be very helpful.
  3. On a third tab, list any fields you want to remove entirely. If you know how many assets they may apply to, add that information. Also list net new fields. You may have this listed on your second tab, but it can be helpful to see it at a glance, especially when you move on to the next phase.

4. Get feedback:

  1. Talk to your users! Take time to walk through your proposed changes with some key users, and modify your spreadsheets accordingly.
  2. Card sorting exercise. You can do this in person with some of your users, or conduct a virtual card sort if your team is spread out geographically. There are a number of sites that offer free trials to their card sorting tools, or, if you have the budget, it can be well worth exploring in more depth. Knowing how your users categorize your assets – at least in very high-level groups – can tell you what you need to improve about your model. It will also highlight areas of confusion, and is a great way to test whether a particularly field is of any use at all, or if it needs to be re-named. You can use your spreadsheets as a starting point.

5. Test & Implement:

  1. Get your new fields and drop-downs into your DAM, but keep it to a staging environment at first. Again, this step may be minor, or a very complex exercise, depending on your software and configuration.
  2. Perform user acceptance testing (UAT): ask users to test drive the modifications to the system to see if your hunches about useful terms and fields were correct.
  3. If UAT went well, and the metadata mapped to your existing assets as expected in your testing environment, you’re ready to push those changes live!

6. Communicate:

  1. Let your users know that change is afoot – give them a heads-up in advance, and as the changes roll out. Whether that’s with a notification in your system, an email alert or a personal communication let them know that you’re working to make use of the DAM easier for them.
  2. Ensure it’s a two-way street – do they have an easy way to let you know they need help, or if they have suggestions for your next round of changes?

But My DAM Won’t Let Me Change It (Easily)!

It’s all well and good to think about how your metadata model will work in an ideal world, but you may have a DAM that makes such changes hugely cumbersome. You are not alone. While some DAMs have been thoughtfully designed with the user—administrative or otherwise—in mind, others make changing your metadata model extremely difficult.

If you’re one of the lucky ones, adding or modifying metadata fields can be done through your user interface – you’ll just want to ensure you have a governance process in place so that only administrators (or other trusted users) can make changes to your fields. You may even have a handy taxonomy management tool built in that will let you create related terms, ensuring that your users who search for ‘soccer’ also find ‘football’ if that’s what they were expecting. Many systems even let your users add their own tags to assets, and you can ensure good metadata hygiene by regularly reconciling these crowdsourced tags with ‘approved’ terms.

Other forward-thinking DAM vendors let you edit metadata in bulk. While it seems that this should be a standard feature, it’s noticeably absent in quite a few solutions, so it adds to your slate of maintenance projects when you need to do it manually (or if you need to write a script to make it happen). Adding a field that needs to be applied to thousands of assets, or modifying one that’s already in use with an equally-large number, is very straightforward in some DAMs. But can be a huge project requiring considerably IT support in others.

Most seem to sit somewhere in the middle: in many DAM solutions, it may require a bit of front-end scripting to make those changes, or even a full-blown dive into back-end programming. If you’re managing one of the more cumbersome systems out there, and making changes is something that needs to be its own project, you’ll quickly run into an even-more-pressing need for governance. Which leads us to the next potential problem (or opportunity).

But I’m Always Making Changes!

Regular maintenance is the key. You’ll find all manner of best practices, but you’ll need to decide what works best for your DAM. Do you have quarterly reviews of your metadata model? Are you constantly adding new keyword terms to keep up with new content types or products? Could you group those more efficiently in a standard field? Are they not easily findable as they are tagged now? Most importantly, what terms do your users actually employ?

In short, you’ll want to come up with a variation on the following steps:

  • Create a metadata governance team – build in a regular cadence to meet with key users and stakeholders, and keep communication lines open.
  • Stick to your review schedule – don’t let maintenance become eclipsed by other projects.
  • Determine technical challenges – if changes to your model are always going to be a high level of effort, can they be coupled with other technical projects (e.g. upgrades, UI changes)?
  • Test and re-test with your users: yes, it takes time, but it’s always a worthwhile exercise.
  • Communicate: let your users know beforehand if you’re making major changes, and make sure you help them navigate them when they go live.

Parting Thoughts

The perfect metadata model is always a moving target. But even as an ongoing work-in-progress, using existing standards can help simplify the process of determining your core fields, and how you want to use them in your DAM. But never be afraid to deviate from a standard if it simply doesn’t make sense for your organization, as long as you maintain a consistent approach. You can create your own in-house standards when no others fit the bill, but you can avoid reinventing the wheel for a goodly portion, simply by exploring the metadata standards landscape. It’s partially a well-signposted journey, but certainly requires some traveling off the path!

About Lisa Grimm

While in grad school for archaeology, Lisa Grimm fell into a career as a web developer (back before HTML had tables), and bounced from London to Silicon Valley, then on to NYC and Philadelphia, focusing ever-more on content and digital assets as she worked in tech, government and publishing. Midway through her career, she went to library school to obtain an MS-LIS degree, and left ‘straight’ tech to work in DAM for a number of libraries, archives and museums. She’s back on the corporate side now, serving as Content Librarian for GSK, where she oversees the company’s DAM ecosystem, taxonomy and metadata standards.

Lisa has been a DAM Guru Program member since February of 2014. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Read more from the “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” DAM Guru Program series »

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM 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.

Why Librarians Understand DAM

By Linda Rouse

The social profile of librarians as “custodians of knowledge” in the community (despite the often derogatory stereotyping) attracts people who have a curiosity and interest in information and research, and in developing the requisite skill sets to become knowledge or information workers.

Librarians understand assets. One of the key factors taught in library schools is that information is valuable and knowledge is power, and it matters little the form—it may be a book, magazine, picture, video or any of the myriad digital formats that make up the world of information today. So managing images and videos is not so very different from managing books and journals—many of the same rules apply.

Librarians learn to catalog and classify items according to global standards. We learn about collection management. We identify different editions and formats for version control. We understand the importance of governance in managing assets.

We have the expertise to research and apply metadata schemas and taxonomies. We understand the business value of efficient asset discovery and findability. We know about copyright and intellectual property, and we can write or develop appropriate policies for effective digital rights management.

These skills can each be readily translated into the world of digital asset management. In fact, these skills are among the first that DAM managers not from library science backgrounds need to learn.

It’s when we think about the adoption of DAM, user training and best practices that the experience of the librarian really comes into its own—from the public librarian organising reading aloud groups for children, to the many special librarians producing what’s new lists for their clients.

Librarians are skilled at encouraging and training users to find materials that match their needs. We know that different types of users require different strategies and methodologies to inform and empower them to use a system, and we are experts when it comes to developing best practices to meet these requirements.

So when in doubt, ask a librarian!

About Linda Rouse

Linda Rouse, BA DipLib AALIA (Associate of the Australian Library and Information Association), has been a practicing librarian for many years. Her career started at the University of New South Wales, Australia, where she acquired her post-graduate Diploma of Librarianship. Rouse then became a cataloguer and later a reference librarian for the State Library of New South Wales, and spent a further 10 years doing electronic research as a freelance contractor. The lure of the Internet tempted her away from traditional librarianship to educate users on ’Net searching and building Web pages. Rouse became involved with Digital Asset Management in its early years, crediting the industry’s “Mother of DAM,” Jennifer Neumann, for much of her transitional training. She has since been dedicated to the promotion of DAM through education in her role as Information Manager for Australia’s DataBasics.

Linda Rouse passed away on 11 March 2017. She was steadfastly dedicated to the Library Sciences and helping others with their information management goals. She was a longtime member and supporter of DAM Guru Program. She will be missed.

Read more from the “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” DAM Guru Program series »

LearnDAM-Logo-75x75DAM 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.

Librarian Tips for DAM Managers

An article series by DAM Guru Program library science professionals

By David Diamond

It took the digital asset management software industry only about 15 years until we started to recognize that this radical new thing we created had actually been created long ago. From taxonomies to metadata to categorization systems and more, what DAM advocates proclaim to be the future of content management has actually long been its history too.

We built a bridge between traditional libraries and libraries of the future and promptly forgot to include the very people who could make that transition work best—the librarians, archivists and information professionals and other library science professionals whose training and experience are all about what we do.

Some argue that Digital Asset Management and Library Science are on a collision course of fate, where one becomes the salvation of the other, enabling both to prosper in the coming decades.

I say that collision has occurred.

DAM Guru Program #GuruTalk profiles have introduced us to DAM managers from a wide variety of backgrounds. One thing that most of these people have in common is that they have no library science training. Digital asset management technologies have made it possible for many of us (myself included) to learn about DAM on the job—or so we think. But just as using Microsoft Word doesn’t make one a writer, managing a DAM doesn’t make one an information professional.

This “Librarian Tips for DAM Managers” article series is authored by DAM Guru Program members who are trained information professionals. The authors present DAM topics from their library science perspectives, which just might fill in some educational gaps for the rest of us.

Thanks to series coordinator, Tracy Wolfe, and her fellow librarians for offering us these tips about what has worked and not worked for—you know—the past few thousand years or so.

David Diamond
DAM Guru Program Creator



Librarian Tips for DAM Managers

All articles in this series:


Guru Talk: Travis McElroy – Ivie

Headshot for DAM Guru profile

Travis has a great perspective on digital asset management: always think about the long-term, big picture use case for your DAM and success will follow.

What companies/organizations have you worked for as a DAM professional? What was your role at each?

I work for Ivie and Associates (@IvieInc) under the title Digital Asset Management Specialist. Ivie employs 550+ associates in 40 offices worldwide providing marketing and advertising services to some of the largest retailers in the United States and Asia. The Image Management department provides marketing images for advertising campaigns, catalogs, circulars signage and web to each of our client sites where our creative and production teams produce collateral. Ivie has experienced tremendous growth; as a result we’ve grown our DAM.

Over the past two years, we reviewed several DAM products to find the best solution for our unique business model. We moved from a product hosted at our corporate office to a ­cloud-based product. My role in the migration was to help with the creation of category structures, metadata schema and group management. Now that our DAM integration is in full swing, I provide access, support and training to our production teams and our clients.

When I’m not working on support, I help our image management team to develop workflows, write user guides and work with the developer to create customizations for our DAM. This is one of my favorite parts of the job. I feel successful when I am able to produce a solution after identifying an issue with user experience.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

In our environment, the primary function of our team is to ensure that users have access to assets that are approved for their use.

For example, if a group on the West Coast shoots a product or purchases a stock image, our team makes sure that the image meets our minimum requirements, that the license is attached to the asset, and that it is distributed to all of the other teams for that client nationally. For seasonal or time sensitive assets, the process would include setting a revised expiration. In addition, we work with our creative teams to maintain adherence to logo and brand guidelines by keeping the most current logos as our published asset.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

I learned DAM on the job. Working in our photography department, I took on the role of populating our previous iteration of DAM. Joining a group on LinkedIn or following related activity on Twitter are great resources to keep up with the latest practices and advancements in the field. Working with a DAM developer doesn’t hurt either. Chances are they have solved issues that you may be facing. They can help you navigate around questionable practices and give you insight in the best way to handle most aspects of your DAM. If you have a clear definition of your business rules, the developer should be able to identify how those rules can be applied within your DAM.

What’s the most important thing for someone new to DAM to understand about DAM?

Think long term. It can be tricky to identify how users will interact with the DAM; but the more questions you ask up front, the more future-proof your DAM will be. Often a simple question in the development phase will save significant time and energy down the road.

If you are considering a change or plan on making a decision that has a global effect on the DAM, take a day or a few to think about it. Run it by other teams who interact with the DAM in different ways. It can save you a lot of grief down the road.

If you weren’t doing DAM as a career, what would you be doing?

I have a background in Print and Graphic Design. If I hadn’t moved into DAM, I would most likely be working in some form of project management. I’ve always been interested in solving problems. I think my previous and current career put me in a position to develop creative solutions.

What is your vision for DAM? What will it look like in 5 years?

I recently read an article on the future of design describing how it will continue to become more personal. Rather than a run of 2.5 million catalogs, focus will move from the masses towards the individual. With all of the information that is captured each day about browsing and purchasing habits, DAM becomes essential in the marketing community for putting the right assets in front of the individual to influence a reaction. Whether that’s an image, a text or a video, having data tied to an asset becomes invaluable. In five years I think we’ll see continued integration with systems that automate content based on these captured metrics. APIs make it so easy to interconnect systems to the DAM that there is no reason our industry won’t continue speeding up the campaign to market timelines. Eventually advertising will be precise and instant.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

My biggest success is when I train a new user and they see the value of our DAM. Every time we bring on a new user, they are impressed with the capabilities and by the work we’ve put in to develop a product that makes their lives easier. Happy users are my biggest success.

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Guru Call: USA

USA FlagLooking for a Guru in New York City area. Member seeking some advice on digital asset management in the entertainment industry.

Member has some solid general experience in the field of asset management, but would like to speak to someone in the field who might be able to offer some advice on where to start and what their goals should be my first few days/weeks/months on the job.

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