Why librarians are DAM gods

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I was invited recently to participate in a webinar to discuss the inner workings of the 24×7 media archive management and digital research LAC Group provides for a major broadcast news and entertainment company.  We support the client’s news and information cycle that includes daily news broadcasts, a variety of weekly programs and special programming.

The webinar was an eDesiderata Forum titled Investing in the Persistence of News. eDesiderata was developed by the Center for Research Libraries, a consortium of academic and independent research libraries, to help those members invest wisely in electronic resources. The purpose of this event was to focus on access to news in the new electronic environment.

The entire Forum was an examination of the media and publishing landscape and digital news marketplace, and what that means for CRL member research libraries.  I was happy to participate because my audience was librarians, and I believe strongly in the value of librarians in the world of digital or media asset management, referred to as DAM and MAM.

For those who are unfamiliar, digital asset management is the systematic approach to organizing and storing rich media like photo and video files for a community of users, including management of digital rights and permissions.

In my estimation, librarianship is more than a nice-to-have DAM/MAM resource; it’s a must-have. As I said in my presentation and I’m happy to repeat here, librarians are MAM Gods!

A new role for librarians: Digital Asset Librarian

Large media concerns have been grappling with new resources and capabilities they need to manage, store and preserve digital news. And as noted by CRL President and moderator Bernard Reilly, digital news is being produced at a speed and scale exponentially greater than the analog world, introducing new concerns like the extent to which media organizations can maintain this content and manage rights and authorship.

LAC Group librarians support 24×7 workflow requirements

We have a large, embedded team at this news broadcasting client supporting their daily digital media and information workflow. Many of our team members have traditional library experience and LIS educational backgrounds as well as video, media management, media archives and metadata experience. They perform a number of critical information services:

  • Managing petabytes of storage and traffic to and from the digital archive;
  • Facilitating access to all assets in either physical or digital form;
  • Managing and monitoring order flow and prioritization;
  • Curating daily content into “highlights packets” to help the editorial teams manage the fire hose of video information they deal with every day;
  • Prioritizing digitization for long-term preservation as well “on-demand” digitization of requested physical media assets;
  • Administering user access and working closely with IT to define, refine and troubleshoot systems as needed.

The team also includes a group of dedicated research analysts who regularly do deep dives into backgrounds, facts and other supporting data for a news story. Their work may involve grave topics, like background checks on suspects in major criminal cases, or much lighter topics, like statistics on U.S. candy consumption during the holiday season.

Content variety: video, audio, documents, transcripts, graphics, raw logs

Content is now mostly born digital and has been for almost a decade, yet our team supports legacy videotape and film assets in a variety of formats, going back decades, including not only finished material but raw footage and outtakes. In addition, other content may include transcripts, logs, audio, photos and other graphics along with rights and usage information. The client’s archive is comprised of millions of assets, not all of them available digitally, but anything in physical/analog format we can digitize on demand and make available quickly as needed.

Content access for internal and external users

News media archives are primarily an internal resource to support internal needs, including editorial, production or general business and operations. No matter the function, everyone needs the ability to search, review, select and edit video for their requirements and we make sure that happens.

While direct public access to our client’s archive is generally not available, the company does support 3rd party access. We help the network make content accessible via its stock footage and licensing partners, and some content is available for academic needs and research through several major universities and the Library of Congress.

All content owners and content producers want to protect their intellectual property. As such they recognize the value of their content and appreciate the responsibility of maintaining their archives for commercial use and IP protection. News organizations also have a bigger responsibility to document history and culture as it unfolds, and to protect the record for future generations.

DAM / MAM workflow approaches

News workflows have evolved with technology, transformed from analog, tape-based content to all-digital content and all-digital workflows. In this time of constant information update and short news production cycles, the needs of capture, delivery, production, broadcasting and archiving are accelerated. The days of waiting for someone to “pull a tape” are over. Now everyone wants and expects content to be available at their fingertips.

Why librarians are DAM/MAM Gods

MAM and DAM systems are built on complex tools and sophisticated technologies.  Success deploying these technologies comes from a marriage of best practices between technology, operations, information systems, production and library management systems.

It doesn’t matter how good the technology is if the user can’t find what they are looking for. Regardless of the asset types, everything needs to be well-organized.  Metadata need to be robust, concise and standardized, and that requires an understanding of the assets as both content and intellectual property.

Librarians need to stand tall and proud at the intersection of these disciplines to assure order in what might otherwise become chaos and maximize transparency for “find-ability” that reaches into the depths of a collection of media assets.

Closing thoughts

DAM / MAM is an easy idea tied around a complicated solution. These systems are living, breathing eco-systems that require on-going management. The digital archive responsibility is theoretically forever, and even if it’s not used regularly, it must work flawlessly when needed.  Further, the technology should be invisible to the user community…it needs to be intuitive, simple and effective.

I encourage librarians looking for new work opportunities or those just starting their careers to think beyond traditional outlets and consider the field of digital asset or media asset management.

Phil Spiegel

Phil Spiegel

Phil Spiegel is Vice President of Corporate Client Engagement at LAC Group. Phil delivers insights and advice based on more than 20 years of media archive and asset management experience gained from companies like National Geographic Television, Corbis Motion, Image Bank and Getty Images.
Phil Spiegel

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