Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Video: UW info school aids SF Zen Center in digital archiving

by Matt Rosenberg September 27th, 2012

Information and library science experts from the University of Washington feature in a new video segment for UWTV’s UW/360 magazine show. It’s about their work helping the San Francisco Zen Center archive 50 years worth of historical materials. UW Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science Joe Tennis says that to deal with the daily pressures of life he found himself drawn to Buddhism and then to the Zen Center, where when he mentioned his vocation, a staff member’s eyes lit up. They needed help, not knowing how best to preserve and organize decades worth of important historical materials including documents, photos, art and textiles, and cassettes. The video segment describes how Tennis and six UW students in the Master of Library and Information Science program at UW’s Information School have volunteered over the three past summers to help the 50-year-old center organize its materials for analog and digital storage. The UW team lived on site at the center and awoke each morning at 5:00 a.m. for 40 minutes of meditation. Tennis says the meditation underscored the relevance to their archiving work of the Buddhist saying, “Use both hands,” or doing one thing at a time, with mindfulness and intention.

In an email interview, Tennis said it’s not precisely clear when the first digitally archived materials will appear at the Center’s related gateway. “We are discussing ways that more of the currently digitized material can go live. We want to have quality meta-deta associated with it, so it is part of a process.” Meta-data, or data descriptors including key words incorporated by Web masters into items published online, help both information providers and information seekers find what they are looking for.

A valuable lesson for the UW students who participated in the project, says Tennis in the video, was that library and information science studies need not result in work only in traditional public library or university settings, because non-profits and a wide range of other organizations have growing information management needs.

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