A look at FADGI with Librarian-in-Residence Hana Beckerle

Today’s guest post is from Hana Beckerle, a 2021 Librarian-in-Residence at the Library of Congress.

I graduated with my MSLIS from Catholic University of America (CUA) in May 2021 and joined the Library’s Digitization Services Section (DSS) as a Librarian-in-Residence in June. While at CUA, I worked as an Electronic Resources Assistant at the University Libraries, which included digitization work as well as managing digital content and metadata. I applied for the Librarian-in-Residence (LIR) program under the “Digital Services” track and was thrilled to find that this year’s program included a position in digitization. Digitization is a vital undertaking for making the collections and treasures of the Library accessible to a wider audience and the prospect of working with professionals from many divisions and service units was very exciting to me.

Additionally, this is an exciting time for digitization work at the Library, as this year marks the opening of the new Digital Scan Center (DSC) in the Madison Building. Members of the DSS and Digital Conversion Team (DCT) moved the DSC from the Adams Building to the Madison in late 2020 and have spent much of this year setting up and installing equipment and testing new capabilities. During my time with DSS I’m working on documenting updated workflows for the new and improved DSC operations, in addition to hands-on digitization work.

FADGI stands for Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative

FADGI, or Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative, is “a collaborative effort started in 2007 by federal agencies to articulate common sustainable practices and guidelines for digitized and born digital historical, archival and cultural content.” Source.

The design of the new scan center and the selection of equipment were influenced by guidelines established by the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative, or FADGI. FADGI is made up of two working groups, the Still Image and Audio-Visual working group, which focus on the creation and management of a wide range of digital content types and file formats. While only federal agencies may be full members of FADGI, the guidelines and resources developed through this consortium are referenced by digitization professionals and digital content managers worldwide.

I was introduced to FADGI digitization guidelines in my graduate school courses on digital content creation and management, as well as during my hands-on digitization work at CUA Libraries, but wasn’t previously aware of the global influence of FADGI and the wider range of resources that FADGI offers to the world of cultural heritage digital content management.

With this in mind, I decided to focus on FADGI for my Librarian-in-Residence “Power Lunch” presentation.* On Friday, October 29 I moderated a Zoom panel discussion that featured four digital content and digitization experts at the Library. These panelists included Phil Michel, Digital Project Coordinator in the Prints and Photographs Division, and Kristin Phelps, Digitization Manager for the Office of Copyright Records. Phil and Kristin are digitization practitioners here at the Library and both have a wealth of knowledge and experience in digital conversion and digitization project management.

The panel also included Kate Murray, a Digital Projects Coordinator in the Digital Collections Management and Services Division, who is a subject matter expert in the areas of audio-visual digitization, digital preservation, and digital content management, and is the head of FADGI’s Audio-Visual Working Group. The final panelist was Tom Rieger, Manager of the Digitization Services Section. Tom is the head of FADGI’s Still Image Working Group and has decades of experience in imaging science and still image digital conversion. Kate and Tom have both been integral to the development of FADGI guidelines and practical resources for their respective working groups.

The program began with a short presentation introducing FADGI and digitization programs here at the Library. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion during which the panelists answered my moderator questions and discussed some of the issues with each other. Topics included the history of FADGI, Library of Congress digitization projects, the impact of FADGI in the wider world of cultural heritage digitization, and challenges and trends in digital content creation and management.

Panelists discussed the evolution of FADGI, which emerged from a need for common standards and best practices for digitization among federal agencies. The initiative grew to cover digital content in general and not just digitization, which was represented in a name change from Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines to Digital Guidelines in 2017.

The general progression for FADGI resources begins with the identification of a need or area of focus, such as embedding metadata in specific digital file types. Typically this leads to the development of guidelines and standards for that area (for example, Embedding Metadata in DPX Files). Then the FADGI working groups may develop open-source software tools or other resources for practitioners to use, such as the embARC tool for managing embedded metadata in DPX files (see this post for more information on embARC).

Hana Beckerle, right, working with digitization and conservation professionals to image an item from the Library’s collection of 10th-16th Century Liturgical Chants

Hana Beckerle, right, working with digitization and conservation professionals to image an item from the Library’s collection of 10th-16th Century Liturgical Chants.

FADGI standards are employed by digitization professionals here at the library in planning projects and quality review. Cultural heritage organizations worldwide also reference FADGI standards and guidelines when developing or upgrading their digitization and digital content management programs. Data on the FADGI website shows that the majority of site visits in recent months have come from IP addresses outside of the U.S., a testament to its global impact. One panelist also noted that digitization is becoming increasingly important in emerging nations as they seek to make more of their cultural heritage available their citizens and the world.

The presentation concluded with questions from the audience, including questions on how FADGI can be utilized by organizations seeking to grow their digitization operations, the quality review process for Prints and Photographs digitization projects, and more. Panelists discussed their thoughts on the biggest challenges, including resource constraints and maintaining staff expertise in evolving technologies and practices, and trends in the area of digital content management.

During my residency, I’ve also been tasked with refreshing the FADGI website, including adding new Still Image Working Group resources and making some aesthetic and organizational updates site-wide. These updates will improve overall site consistency and declutter some pages, as well as apply principles of usability in web design. Check out these posts on the Signal on recently-added Audio-Visual Working Group resources, and stay tuned the FADGI site for other updates.

*Note: A recording of the October 29, 2021 panel presentation on FADGI can now be found at this link: https://www.loc.gov/item/webcast-10104/