Sunday, May 03, 2009

DLF Aquifer Metadata Working Group "Lessons Learned" report available

That moment when a long-term project comes to an end is always simultaneously filled with relief and sadness. Relief in that new opportunities can be embraced and a pretty package placed around what was accomplished, with appropriate rationales for what didn't make its way into the package. Sadness in that productive and creative working relationships come to a close or change, and that there is always more to be done that cannot for practical reasons be embarked upon at this time.

The Digital Library Federation's Aquifer initiative wrapped up this spring, and causes me to experience that moment of relief and sadness. (Well, to be honest, several moments!) I've been involved with Aquifer from the beginning, and during that time my relationship with it evolved from skepticism to "just jump in and see what you can do" to "bite off one reasonable chunk of a problem and do your best to make this chunk work with other chunks." A report the Metadata Working Group just released, "Advancing the State of the Art in Distributed Digital Libraries: Accomplishments of and Lessons Learned from the Digital Library Federation Aquifer Metadata Working Group," reflects that last approach, attempting to place our work in an ever-evolving context. There is much more that could have been done, and the limitations and benefits of a volunteer committee to do work like this is more evident to me now than ever. Nevertheless, I'm proud of the work this group did. Congratulations to all involved on sucessfully navigating through our many tasks.

The message I sent out about this report to various listservs included the following "thank you":
The Aquifer Metadata Working Group would like to thank all who have been involved with the initiative, including current and past Working Group members; the Aquifer American Social History Online project team; participants in ground-breaking precursor activities such as the DLF/NSDL OAI-PMH Best Practices; individuals and institutions who tested, implemented, and provided feedback on the Metadata Working Group's MODS Guidelines and other work products; and of course DLF for its ongoing support. It's been a wild, educational, and wholly enjoyable ride!
I can't state with enough gratitude the role the community has played in what the Aquifer Metadata Working Group was able to accomplish. I like to talk with those thinking of entering the digital library field just how much of our work is figuring it out as you go - we're constantly refining models to apply to new types of material and take advantage of new technologies. My absolute favorite part about working in this area is navigating the tricky path of effectively building on previous work while pushing the envelope at the same time. I hope the Aquifer Metadata Working Group's contributions continue to be useful as building blocks for a long time to come.