New Digitization Center Opens in LITS

Posted: February 1, 2007

This past September the Digitization Center opened in the Library, Information, and Technology Department. The "Digi" Center, as it's called, was created to support Mount Holyoke's curricular needs by converting and creating digital multimedia instructional materials.

For James Gehrt, the head of the Digitization Center, the role of the Digi Center continues to be defined every day as the needs of the Mount Holyoke community change. For the time being, the main purpose of the Digi Center has been to handle the online e-reserve readings professors use for classes.

The e-reserves have traditionally been a way for professors to assign short readings, providing the material online rather than having students pay for a book or copies. Previous to the Digitization Center, each course had its own Web page and username and password where the readings were available, making it cumbersome for students and faculty who had to keep track of several usernames and passwords.

The Digitization Center now offers faculty a central place to deal with e-reserves. According to Gehrt, "Faculty like having someone they can come in and talk with and make appointments with." And Gehrt envisions e-reserves and the Digitization Center's services becoming more popular. "Every year more and more people use e-reserves. They are slowly introduced to ELLA and can see the other resources that open them up for exploring more in online work."

When Gehrt was hired in September, he became responsible for managing the e-reserves, which meant he spent much of January collecting readings from about 60 professors, scanning and uploading the material so it was ready for students at the beginning of this semester.

Gehrt has been able to take advantage of the College's new learning management system, ELLA, which enables professors, students, and campus organizations to post information and communications in a central location. By using ELLA for the e-reserves, students only need to log in with their Mount Holyoke username and password and their classes are listed on their ELLA homepage. According to Gehrt, "ELLA is easy to use and is great for students."

Gehrt is a photographer and had previously worked in a conservation lab and as a teacher. "It's a completely different job going from photographic to academic work," Gehrt said. "But since photography has switched from physical to digital, a lot of skill sets transferred nicely."

This summer the corridor in Dwight where the Digitization Center and other learning labs are located will be completely remodeled. All of the walls will be ripped out and the space will have a more welcoming, casual feel, similar to the popular Information Commons. Rather than having separate classrooms, the space will have several different stations with computer banks around the room so students and faculty can gather for formal or informal sessions. The Digitization Center will be located in one of the corners of the new space.

For Gehrt, the change is good. "The new department has given me the flexibility to set up the Digi Center in its own way. With the remodeling I can help with the new layout and in deciding how things will work."

In addition to the regular Digi Center services, which include planning, creating, organizing, and archiving images and information for the Mount Holyoke community, Gehrt has several long-term projects he hopes to accomplish. He plans on working with the Mount Holyoke Art Museum and Archives to make much of their collections available online and with the multimedia department in LITS to work on digitizing some films.

Ultimately Gehrt sees the Digitization Center as "a service point for the community to help with imaging, video, and e-reserves. It allows members of the community to put a face on a service and serves as a defined point and a tool for the faculty."

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