Week 6: Online Collections

Libraries are leveraging a wide range of web-publishing, digital collection management, and social sharing approaches and tools. Some institutions are very actively sharing with their communities, using sites such as Flickr and Pinterest. Others have invested heavily in online exhibits and robust discovery environments. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses. This module guides exposure to some features, functionality, and opportunities and risks associated with some of the most popular platforms.


Skim through the sites,  documents, and collections described below. Delve deeper into topics that interest, but you might choose to save some exploring for later-on. The focus of this module is exposure and context.  Search for online collections that seem to leverage these approaches and tools. Keep track of ones that work well, and ones that fall short of expectations. There’s a ton of information below – don’t feel like you have to look at everything!


Help establish a plan for a sustainable strategy for sharing a digital collection.

Imagine that you are on the strategic planning committee for the Monterey College Library digital collections initiative. Your Special Collections department has amassed a collection of more than 3,000 digital versions of historical society photos, manuscript pages, small maps, rare prints, and ephemera – work produced for years of special requests and curated exhibitions. The college librarians hope that in making the digital collections available online, the library will improve its reputation while supporting the overarching missions.

While an esteemed alumnus has made a donation that should defray much of the initial costs, the library has a limited budget and cannot allocate much for digital collections. The institution’s network and technology infrastructure was upgraded a year ago and is considered “robust.”  About two thirds of the digital collection has cataloging beyond the collection level. Some of the content is considered to be within copyright as well.

Gather and organize your information:

  • feature and function requirements
  • user needs or user stories
  • resources and references
  • cost estimates
  • examples that illustrate value and functionality (or lack thereof)

Make this exercise more challenging by also considering:

  • What information would you need in order to make a strong recommendation?
  • What options might be a good fit for the library and why?
  • What are some of the benefits, drawbacks and risks that would need to be considered for each option?

For a briefer exercise, limit your exploration to Omeka, Flicker, and Pinterest.


In this week’s blog post, or in a comment on this page, write a recommendation for a digital collection sharing strategy that leverages Flickr and Pinterest or Omeka. Include a couple of examples that support your recommendation(s).

Make this assignment more challenging by also describing:

  • return on investment
  • rationales
  • three or five year planning
  • opportunities and risks

or make this a briefer assignment by comparing features of Omeka and Flicker.

After completing this module, you will have a better understanding of popular tools for web-based catalog, exhibition, and sharing tools. You’ll be able to compare and evaluate strategies for making digital collections available on the web.

Collections Sharing


Also on Flickr:

Note the different levels of information that each institution provides.



SFMOMA, The Getty, and some notable libraries also maintain Pinterest feeds.

More and more, institutions are sharing via multiple services.

Feeding the masses!

Here are a few short articles that describe how to link your accounts together:

Online Catalog and Discovery



Academic Libraries provide dedicated “gateway” discovery tools, like the University of California’s Calisphere.

Stanford University Libraries’ SearchWorks


or they develop complex discovery environments, like Stanford’s SearchWorks library catalog.

Web-publishing and collection management


Omeka video (3min, 45sec)

Omeka is a web-publishing platform for creating websites to display collections and build digital exhibitions.

Included in the Omeka 2.0 download:

  • Two themes that are easy to adapt with simple CSS changes and theme configuration
  • Exhibit Builder plugin with 12 page layouts
  • Tagging for items and exhibits
  • RSS and Atom feeds for items
  • COinS plug-in making items readable by Zotero
  • SimplePages plugin for easily making static pages

Omeka installation requirements:

  • Linux operating system
  • Apache HTTP server (with mod_rewrite enabled)
  • MySQL version 5.0 or greater
  • PHP scripting language version 5.2.4 or greater (with mysqli and exif extensions installed)
  • ImageMagick image manipulation software (for resizing images)

Some collections are Omeka hosted sites.

Other popular online collection platforms include:


Another popular tool for for building and sharing online collections and websites




A great example of an academic digital repository system



Content management – a blending of sharing and storing.




CONTENTdm video (4min, 42sec)

CONTENTdm offers many of the same features as Omeka and is easy to use, but its proprietary nature has been a sticking point for some institutions

Metadata and local content management

Photo Mechanic

The press and media have used Photo Mechanic for processing and managing digital collections for years.

Some libraries and archives have been investigating Photo Mechanic for lightweight metadata and cataloging, described in Stanford University’s Laura Williams SAA 2012 presentation.


LYRASIS is host to the ArchivesSpace open-source archives/collection management tool development project.

Archivist’s Toolkit

A software application to support archival processing and the management of archival information. Key objectives of the application are to increase archival processing efficiencies and lower processing costs, including costs for specialized training; reduce the need for locally built tools; and promote standardization. When completed, the application will support collection accessioning and description, location tracking, and provenance registration, as well as outputs for the EAD and METS standards.


An organization should first assess its capabilities to provide post-acquisition library services for electronic formats before embarking on creating them.

(Stephen Chapman, Techniques for Creating Sustainable Digital Collections)

The Northeast Document Conservation Center, home to Digital Directions (formerly School for Scanning), offers a Digital Preservation Readiness Webliography.

“As a user, I want” Agile user story template for articulating requirements.

Incidental Costs


The ALA Office for Information Technology’s Copyright slider and Section 108 Spinner.

Stanford University Libraries Copright & Fair Use pages.


2 Responses to “Week 6: Online Collections”


  1. Welcome to the Learning Hub 2.0 | Learning Hub 2.0 - February 26, 2013

    […] Week 7: Online Collections […]

  2. Welcome to Week 6! | Learning Hub 2.0 - April 10, 2013

    […] in week 6 now, and ready to explore the Online Collections module! In week 2 we looked at Flickr and Pinterest from a web marketing perspective. This week […]

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