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Tuesday 11 September 2007

Kete Horowhenua: a community-built digital library

Joann Ransom
Played audio of builder who's never seen computer in his life but within hour and a half of entering library was cataloguing images etc of machinery for Kete.

Had problems in the historical sectors aof aging and dying volunteers, huge backlog. "Digital library building in my inbox". Council concerned. Much stuff in private hands; much in people's heads. Researched initiatives offshore, licensing options, etc.

Important to develop with open source. Brainstormed what records it could draw on from various databases, various organisations.
Greenstone considered but rejected because suitable for something creative and published whereas Kete needs to be dynamic
Ruby on Rails - development framework and Zebra indexing engine. - tested on 10million records with Koha - works with Koha.

Developed on the fly. 3 instances of server: development, test, live. Has allowed very rapid development and kept librarians involved in building. Content added even while developing - as soon as anything available.

Needed volunteers - advertised in newspaper "interesting work, lousy pay" - overwhelmed with replies, retired secretaries etc. 20 regulars working from home."I can do half an hour a day I guess" - now working four days a week.

Radical trust concept - being afraid isn't a reason not to do it.
Creative Commons - content may be amended etc but not for commercial use, credit original author, derivative work on same terms.

Web 2.0 stuff included - the new sudoku - people can go in and play. contact people with similar interests online or offsite (opt-in).

Catalogued in natural language; people can add extra tags. Topics point to diferent file types.
With clean screen didn't know what to look for so provided various access points including featured topics, keyword search, latest 5 topics. Browse list of entire contents arranged by formats in tabs. Random image as slideshow. Featured baskets (locked baskets - administered by owners and protected from editing but viewable).

Text edit - wiki. Allows image and tables etc. Templates for creating topics.

Successful: it's local, belongs to community, it's "ours" - people like to help build a fence, build a database... valuable, non-threatening (teaching IT virgins) - pride in itpersonal, easy to find stuff, addictive!

Problems solved: no backlog, originals safe, working on unidentified photos, raised profile, getting more donations now proved that it'll be looked after,

What next:
Have got more funding to strip out customisation and let people download software to use for self. Kete 1.0 in November. Guided install and skin module.Mass import. Establish a community.

Other kete in process - in Florida, Taranaki (Working on bilingual, adding Maori Subject Headings, building Taranaki wordlist), Chinese Ass. of NZ (working on federated searching). (More info contact Rachel @ Katipo)

Lessons learnt:
don't underestimate application forms for funding
short time between expession of interest and full application
be scrupulous in record keeping

More success stories of variety of older community members participating - dedicated community