Tag Archives: CPC

Who’s on first? Keeping track

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[photo credit: bahri altay / shutterstock.com]

We have recently debuted a new internal tracking system for our CPC partners. We have a lot of contacts with people who work in presidential sites and libraries, and while my email is a good way for ME to keep track of conversations and partner activity, it is not so good for other people. So Amber, our web developer, built a tracking system in the back-end of our content management system. Now instead of my email and a spreadsheet that lives only on my desktop, we are tracking our interactions with partners in our CMS, and that means it is available to the whole team at any point in the process.

Recruiting partners, adding metadata into CPC, and finalizing partner information on the CPC website generally takes many steps and a long time. I generally reach out to a potential partner at least three times before we can finalize a partnership, and then it takes many more emails to handle the details such as the partner agreement and the data export of metadata for CPC.

This isn’t a problem—it is just the process that is necessary to build partnerships and grow CPC. In many cases, potential partners don’t know us and need to learn about the Miller Center and CPC before they are willing to consider joining the project.

Then we have many partners that don’t yet have digital items but in many cases they are working on it. So I email a partner and then check back in periodically to find out where they are in their process. One partner that I first reached out to in November 2015 was interested, but they needed to put their items online before they could consider a partnership with CPC. By August 2016 the site was up!

That timetable is actually fast—it normally takes a long time for an organization to put their collections online, and it takes a long time to redesign websites. One partner we work with took more than two years to redesign their website. It takes a long time in part because many partner organizations are beholden to outside web design companies to build their new websites. And honestly, building a new website is detailed and complicated work. It cannot be done on the fly.

I’m excited about our new tracking system because it is one step toward moving CPC past a temporary grant project and into life as a full-fledged program. The IMLS grant continues into 2017 but we are working on building more permanent systems and processes for CPC that can see it into the future. So although it has taken me a long time to put all the partner information into the tracking system, I know that it is effort well spent because it shares and preserves valuable information.

 

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Joining the Team

It’s introduction time! This has been a while in the making, but I’m delighted to say I’ve joined the CPC project, and the Miller Center, as the new web developer.

New Computer by N1NJ4, on Flickr

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  N1NJ4  (source: Flickr)

My name is Matthew Stephens, and most recently I was a technologist at Alderman Library, here at the University of Virginia. This is where Blacklight was born, and I’ve been a fan of it and Apache Solr for many years. Prior to my coming to UVA, I worked at Intelex, a digital publisher here in Charlottesville, and that’s where I cut my teeth on metadata aggregation, something very much on the minds of everyone here. Needless to say, I’m very excited to work on a project where I can build upon past experience and learn new ways to do things I care about.

The first item on my (growing) to-do list is updating the CPC site. Open source software is a moving target, and many of the components of the site are due for an update. The Blacklight team has released version 5.3.0 in the past month, and upgrading to this, along with many dependencies, will keep the CPC application current with the broader community of Ruby-on-Rails and Solr enthusiasts. Along with the upgrades, I will be streamlining a few things under the hood, including the indexing of the metadata provided by our partners. A Solr index is many a splendored thing, and part of my role will be to ensure that the information we receive from partners can be effectively searched and discovered by our users.

I’m delighted to join a team that has already impressed me with their creativity, expertise, and drive. I’ve also learned of their passion for the serial comma, so you may view that last sentence as a peace offering, given my expressed agnosticism. (I’m sure we’ll work that out in the months to come. I’m also from Canada, so my pronunciation of the letter ‘Z’ may be an issue.)

Modern web development is a fascinating endeavor, but so much more so when the endless possibilities are shaped by serving a community. I invite any and all interested readers to have a look at the site as it changes over the coming months. We’re all eager to make something interesting and useful, and we welcome any suggestions you’d care to make.

I tweet, occasionally and somewhat whimsically, at this address.

CPC and the Catalog–distinguishing their goals

We have been thinking through the Catalog part of the grant project and trying to make some decisions to move that part forward. We have been grappling with questions such as how do we want to handle internet resources in the Catalog and what to do about presidential speeches that often appear in multiple places on the internet. How many times do we want “Special Message from President Martin Van Buren” to appear in the Catalog?

We are also thinking through the relationship between the Catalog and the Connecting Presidential Collections website. We originally envisioned the Catalog as a way to identify presidential collections and their hosting organizations so that we could then partner with them and add the collections to CPC. But once we made the first effort to catalog a president’s collections, we were reminded how large and diverse the world of presidential collections is. We identified many interesting presidential resources that might be useful to include in the Catalog that I didn’t think would be appropriate for CPC. I couldn’t quite articulate to my coworkers why some of the resources in the Catalog prototype made me uncomfortable. Useful resources such as videos about the presidents on YouTube might be good to identify in the Catalog but wouldn’t work in my mind in CPC.

After talking through the issues with one of my coworkers, we hit upon a useful way to distinguish between the two parts of this IMLS grant. The Catalog and the CPC website are both focused on presidential collections but in fact their goals are quite unique. The Catalog will be useful to a wider audience if we include most of the presidential resources available, resources such as collections of digitized speeches, educational YouTube videos, and even perhaps lesson plans about the presidents. But CPC has a different mission.

The CPC website is focused on exposing hidden collections of presidential materials. The CPC doesn’t necessarily need to include an internet resource that anyone can easily find through a google search. What we hope to do with CPC is reach out to partner organizations to make their collections more accessible. It doesn’t matter to us if we make them more available by aggregating their metadata into CPC to increase traffic to their website or whether we make them more available by providing training to digitize materials and put them online. The goal is to shed light on valuable historical resources that might be hard to find right now.

This distinction between the two parts of the project was very helpful to me. We can include resources in the Catalog that might make it easier for people to find presidential resources already available on the internet. But CPC’s mission skews in another direction–to focus on the organizations with hidden collections that might need a little assistance in bringing them to light. I am sure that as we continue through our IMLS grant project, I will have many similar revelations that help clarify my thinking about our work. And each time, I will benefit from conversations with my coworkers and others involved in this universe, learning a little more each step of the way.