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Russian doll effect in digital libraries

I've heard a few presentations from Jim Bradley (Head of Metadata and Digital Initiatives at Ball State) over the years on the idea of the Russian Doll effect in digital libraries. This has been an intriguing premise to me- How can we effectively assess and track how our digital collections are living beyond the scope of the repository, and further, how can we track this type of scholarship? Surely this process would display the value and importance of open digital collections, and also indicate how scholarship is influenced and created through these collections.

The elusiveness of digital media can be a curious one to try to ponder and capture effectively, but I think what is interesting to me, is how users can repurpose, repackage and bundle information into new contexts. Bradley has spoken about a project where students used drawings from the Pierre and Wright Architectural Records and created new designs and 3D objects from the original drawings. The digital library then sought to collect these new creations in their own new (but related) collections.

In a similar vein here at Kent, I was thrilled to see our student newspaper (who we've recently been meeting with) start to highlight content from our digital archive. Example here, telling us that in 1942 Kent State freshman were made to wear dinks, give up their seat to upperclassmen at any given time and know the alma mater by heart.

Coeds Receiving Dinks, Kent State, 1940s
Image from: Kent State University Libraries. Special Collections and Archives.

My hope (and goal) looking to other collections is to find these threads of use and find a way to effectively put in a metrics frame to capture this kind of information. This kind of information may help guide future project decisions and also gauge interest in what users are looking for.


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