© 2015 by Athenaeum21

September 30, 2016

The McKinsey Global Institute has just released a report stating that flows of data and information now generate more economic value than the global good trade.

Interestingly, this report comes a full 20 years after the OECD released their report on the knowledge-based economy in which they stated that "knowledge is now recognised as the driver of productivity and economic growth."

August 2, 2016

Just because you put something up on the Web doesn’t mean that people will find it. Think about how your users locate your collections now and how this may or may not change with digitization. Some of your users will likely find digital collections the same way they find the analogue ones—through a library catalog or an archive’s finding aids. Helping these users can be as easy as providing a link to the digitized resource in the usual places they look for materials. Optimizing the number of people who find and use your digital resources should start with creating good bibliographic description of the resources themselves. In short, there is little point digitization something if you don't have good metadata to enable people finding it.

But opening up your collections to the world also means that your potential audience is much wider. Is your library’s catalogue indexed on the Web? If someone searches for the title of the work you are going to digitize...

July 7, 2016

This post was originally written in 2010 and forms a chapter of the book Hacking the Academy, edited by Dan Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt. It will form part of a series of upcoming posts on putting people (rather than information, books, or things) back at the center of libraries.

Our academic libraries have been in the wrong business for about one hundred and fifty years. It was in the mid to late nineteenth century that they began to be characterized as storehouses or warehouses of information and I would argue that this information-centered model is a mistake. Before then they were not stand-alone collections of books, but great complexes of mental and physical activity, including museums, gymnasiums, and baths. The goal of the library was to support the great scholars of the day by providing them access to the most important sources of information, but also to everything else that was needed to turn that information into new knowledge, including a spa...

June 16, 2016

Unless funding, space and staff are endless resources in your organization, at some point you will face the inevitable conclusion that you need to stop doing something. Or many things. But how do you decide what to stop doing? Athenaeum21's cyclical process of strategy, implementation, and assessment is designed to help you decide what not to do as well as what to do next. And our focus is on providing an evidence-based and user-focused approach to these decisions.

Let's look at an example. The BBC recently announced that it needs to cut £15 million a year from its budget. One way they decided to do this is by 'archiving' the 11,163 recipes on their web site. There was a huge public backlash and a number of technology organizations (including the Internet Archive and Wired) scrambled to try and save the pages (or document how to access them after the changes).

I see the BBC's decision as a failure of data. Firstly, did anyone do any analysis of the web...

June 16, 2016

I cringe every time I hear the phrase 'digitally preserved' being used. Even more so when it is used by people who should know better.  Digitization is Not Digital Preservation. Period. It is easy to think that digitizing something will preserve it in some way—particularly if the piece is unique and/or fragile as digitization may allow you to limit handling of the object. What digitization really accomplishes, though, is the creation of yet another object that needs to be stored, cared for, and nurtured in order to be sustained. Digital preservation is an extremely complex problem that still hasn’t come close to being solved. Hundreds of thousands of digital objects—on the Web and off—are every day being rendered unusable as file formats change and hardware and software becomes outdated. A number of organizations around the world (see the Further Reading section) are working on solutions for digital preservation and their progress can easily be follow...

May 16, 2016



There are currently thousands of library and museum digitization projects available online (some freely and others by subscription) but not everyone means the same thing by ‘digitization’. In order to create, manage, or sustain a SUCCESSFUL digitization project, it is important to understand two important things: 1. What resources do you have available (Inputs) and 2. What are your goals? This latter can be thought of both in terms of functionality (what do you want users to be able to do?) and audience (who do you want your users to be?)


Digitization of fragile, valuable, and rare archives is still surprisingly expensive and inconceivably time consuming. There is no magic bullet to quick and affordable digitization—no perfect dpi to choose, or optimal scanner or software to buy—so my goal here is to provide a few ways of thinking about digital projects that may help you to start a digitization program or perhaps continue an existing program more ef...

March 30, 2016

Athenaeum21 will be at ER&L (Electronic Resources & Libraries) in Austin, TX next week. We will be presenting Tuesday (5 April) morning on “Data Informed Decision Making for Digital Resources." Here is a description of our session:


Libraries increasingly need to make strong cases for--and smart allocations of--their resources. Library leaders need to know what to do more of and what to stop doing. Understanding how people find, use, and value digital resources is one of the most difficult areas to evaluate. Google analytics and other webstats packages only provide one narrow and limited view of use; and value can only really be understood with a broader range of qualitative and quantitative data. This session will provide three case studies of assessment and evaluation programs in libraries--one past, one current, and one future. The cases use three different modes of data gathering and analysis and show the power of understanding user needs and how w...