Guru Call: USA

USA FlagLooking for a Guru in Minnesota area. Member seeking general advice on digital asset management for video archiving and retrieval.

Member is interested in the DAM community’s perspective on the future of DAM, and insights to the challenges our current DAM industry faces.

Available DAM Guru members who are able to help may reach out to their program manager for more details.

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Guru Talk: Jaime McCurry – Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

Jaime McCurry - Digital Assets Librarian

Jaime offers some wonderful advice about digital asset management specific to policies and workflows for successful DAM system strategies.

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

I first started thinking about DAM while pursuing my MLIS. After graduating in 2013, I was selected to serve as a resident in the inaugural National Digital Stewardship Residency program, hosted by the Library of Congress, where I was placed at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. as a digital archivist. For nine months I worked to evaluate the digital climate at the library as it related to digital asset management and digital preservation. In addition to working on the Folger’s web archiving program, I generated a file-format inventory of the born-digital assets created and held by the Folger’s theatre and television production departments. That inventory evolved into a prescriptive digital stewardship needs-assessment report, intended to support future institutional digital asset management projects and programs.

I am currently the Digital Assets Librarian at the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. At Hillwood, I am positioned in the Archives & Special Collections Library where I am responsible for developing, implementing, and sustaining our digital asset management, preservation, and stewardship practices. I administer our newly created institutional digital asset management program and manage our current DAMS. Some of my responsibilities include user-training, the development of local policies and workflows, overseeing any necessary system development work, and the general management of our digital collections.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

As a library science student, I was drawn to all things digital: digital access and digital stewardship/preservation especially. When studying digital stewardship, you come to be familiar with what’s known as the digital lifecycle. The lifecycle model essentially could be considered a core tenet of the DAM profession: a digital asset is created, it is described, managed, preserved, and made discoverable, all to facilitate access, use, and reuse. These principles and their close connection to the DAM profession led me to learn more DAM and how proper digital asset management programs provide access to important collections of content.

Specifically, I found resources such as the Journal of Digital Media Management and blogs like CMSWire and DAM Guru to be very helpful. I’d definitely recommend anyone considering participating in the DAM Guru program to take the leap. I was fortunate to connect with a Guru in 2013 while working as a resident at the Folger and the conversation we had together was incredibly informative and insightful.

There are also tons of helpful resources coming out of the library and information science communities, especially regarding descriptive standards, digital access and preservation technologies, and general digital information management strategies: D-Lib Magazine, the Code4Lib Journal and community, and the Library of Congress’ The Signal to name a few.

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

DAM is both an activity and an environment. These two existences rely on each other to survive. The activities that go into the continual management of your assets and DAMS as a whole rely completely on the working environment that provides the policies, workflows, motivation, and support for those activities to take place. That and while there are universal DAM strategies, each DAM environment will be slightly different at each institution you encounter. The structure, the bones, of your program should be determined by the needs and use-cases of your users. In my experience, solutions and workflows that attempt to complement and optimize native work habits are more likely to be adopted and to survive.

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

Web development. I am learning to code in my spare time and have a growing love for graphic and user-centered web design. It would be so interesting to apply these interests in a cultural heritage/museum setting. I think a lot about sharing digital collections and about what an engaging digital collections portal or online web exhibition might look like. Those are thoughts I intend to explore further in the future.

What is your ongoing greatest challenge with DAM?

Well, there will always be the-great-metadata-challenge: how much is too much? How little is too little? Where is the balance? When I introduce the concept of metadata to our content-creators and our general users, I like to draw the connection between metadata and search performance. We’re trying to make sure that our content-creators are equipped with the tools and tips they need to describe their content efficiently so that our search results are as accurate as possible for our general users. I find that the example of searching and successfully finding the items you are looking for really resonates with users.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

The full implementation of our current DAMS at Hillwood. It was, and still is, a definite journey from migrating content from the institution’s past DAMS to working with our terrific creators to describe and provide access to that content, some of it for the very first time! We’ve also undertaken two development projects to optimize the system to our needs and are already starting to see the rewards of such measures.

What more would you like to learn about DAM?

I would love to learn more about our DAMS’ API and more about APIs in general. There’s such a wealth of content that we’re managing, it would be really amazing to connect to and pull from that wealth in more creative ways to support the discovery of, use of, and interest in our assets.

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Guru Talk: Kim Phillips – Bass Pro Shops

Kim Phillips - Digital Asset Coordinator

Kim knows that the rollout of a digital asset management system can make or break it with the end users. She offers some great tips with regard to introducing a new DAM system company wide.

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

I started learning about the Digital Asset Management industry in 2007/08 while working for my current employer Bass Pro Shops. In 2010 we started using a DAM service and I was involved heavily in the setup of the system from an end user perspective.

At present I’m the Image Asset Coordinator in charge of asset ingestion, taxonomy, training, troubleshooting, and general administration of the database for about 150 users, and the font librarian for the Creative department.

How do you describe digital asset management to others?

I explain the bare bones of what I do, which is essentially an image librarian for the thousands of assets we have on file. In that scenario DAM is about sorting and filing those assets in a database so the entire company can easily access them, instead of by a single librarian.

How did you learn DAM? Any recommended sources?

My learning experience was all by touch, which I’ve found is the case for many people in the industry. We had stock photography cd’s sitting in a back room of the photography department that needed to be accessed by the creative department. I was a project traffic person and moved over to organize the assets and started the process of adding metadata to files and moving them to a server for the creative staff. That eventually morphed into the DAM library we have online now.

I actually had two premedia vendors talk to me at length about DAM. One of the vendors was very much ahead of the curve in terms of where DAM was going and I learned a lot from them. They pointed me towards Real Story Group and we were able to purchase the Real Story Group DAM Vendor Evaluation report. That was the best resource I encountered that went straight to the heart of DAM systems that would best meet our needs as a company. I also read articles on CMSWire. My other favorite resource is other Asset managers via LinkedIn groups or networking at DAM functions.

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

DAM requires a lot of groundwork before rollout. I’ve heard stories of partial DAM rollouts that soured the end users on the whole system before it even got off the ground. So here are some tips that helped me:

  • Understand the nature of your company’s assets and who the end users are. When I started out the thought was the assets were just for the creative group. As I started talking with people in various departments I realized more people needed access for a variety of reasons (video stills, press releases, web banners, and print pieces).
  • Get feedback from people across several departments on how they would search for an asset. We found that some groups search by sku (typically merchants) some are more comfortable with keywords and a few just want to browse folders to see what’s out there.
  • Have a good roadmap for implementing the DAM. Most DAM vendors will work with you on this. I’m always cautious if a vendor says at the outset “we can customize that for you”. That usually ends up being costlier in the long run.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There are no stupid questions in this business. Also, ask to speak to other users before you make a final decision. A few times I discovered that clients bought a very robust system they were barely using because it didn’t play well with their other databases but they’d already written the check.

What was your biggest success with regard to DAM?

Prior to the implementation of the DAM tool most of my time was spent finding and delivering assets to various people throughout the company. Instead of focusing on newer assets and getting them in to the database in a timely manner, I was a courier. Seeing the DAM tool rolled out to the company drastically changed my workload and allowed me to focus more on the user experience and ingesting new assets into the database.

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