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Rethink, Redefine, Reinvent: the Research Library in the Digital Age was the theme of this year’s Launch conference. Since so many of us attended this conference, each of will blog one presentation to avoid repetition.

In the afternoon I attended the break-out session “Changing Workforce” which I thought from the title would be about diversity in the workplace.Instead, I heard three presentations about changes in the types of work librarian perform.The first two presentations were about creating digital collections while the third was about evaluating and introducing new technology to the library.All three represented roles for librarians never contemplated by Melvil Dewey.

The first talk was jointly presented by two metadata librarians from the Duke Digital Collection.Rich Murray is the Spanish/Portuguese Cataloguer for whom metadata was added to his responsibilities.The other, Noah Huffman, joined Duke last year as Archivist for Metadata and Encoding with metadata management as a primary responsibility in his job description.They are part of a larger digital collections team that works on a distributed model; there is no digital collections department.

Together, they act in two ways: first, they establish the metadata format for a collection before the digitizing begins.They determine which elements to capture such as types of information to be catalogued and the metadata scheme to be used (Dublin Core, other). Then, they catalog the pieces by entering the appropriate information in the designated fields.

Their work differs from traditional cataloguing in that they establish a metadata template for each collection rather than following an established standard, such as AACR2.Next, they have several different digital metadata schemes on which to model their template, rather than one.Lastly, they apply tags to the images rather than the LC subject headings.Still, there are some similarities to print cataloguing: they use LC to standardize place names and they try to standardize the language in captions and tags. This process applies whether they’re beginning to digitize a new collection or migrating an existing digital collection to a new platform.

John Blyth also works to create digital collections, but he deals with the scanning, processing and saving of items born digital; these may include images, e-mails, documents or other items. He works with the Southern Historical Collection at the Wilson Library at UNC and has processed more than a hundred CDs worth of items.

Chad Haefele is the Reference Librarian for Emerging Technologies at UNC Davis Library; he evaluates new technologies to determine their appropriateness for use in the library.When he deems that they might be useful and are sufficiently well developed to be stable, he introduces them to the library staff through technology classes.In addition, he serves on a campus-wide committee that’s developed a suite of iPhone applications for Duke. One of the most interesting projects on which he has been working is to create a “my library” page for patrons.It resembles an iGoogle page with boxes that include RSS feeds for new books or films in certain subject areas, hours of operation and other items.He’s hoping to add a box that would show the patron’s account of checked out items.

These three presentations highlighted the role of technology in our work as librarians.Computer-based tools allow us to work in new ways, but at a conceptual level the work is remarkably similar to what it was in Dewey’s day.