2 min Read
October 21, 2014

A DAM good idea: Mastering the media library

Keira Dempsey, Media Librarian, Plan International

While working with Plan International, we noticed their hugely useful and impeccably organized media library. We asked their Media Librarian, Keira Dempsey, to discuss the tools she uses and the insights she has into creating and maintaining a great media library.

In 2006 I joined child rights organization Plan International as their Media Librarian. On my first day, I was shown a cupboard full of DVDs, CDs and tapes and told to “make us a library.” It was a challenge, but it’s actually nice to start a library from scratch rather than having to follow someone else’s pre-organized structure – which can sometimes be rather curious, to say the least.

The Digital Asset Management (DAM) system Plan was using was a bit of a dinosaur; we needed to make a change. I looked to other NGOs for inspiration and quickly saw that a lot of them were using ResourceSpace – open source DAM software originally developed for Oxfam. One look and I knew this was a great system, certainly the best I had ever used in my 20 years as a media librarian.

While the success of any media library obviously relies in large part on the software, having a great system is just one side of the coin. The other invaluable asset is employing someone who knows what they are doing to manage the site on a permanent basis.

So often, organizations invest in a system and then bring in a temp for a short time to get the site up and running. This approach underestimates how much time and effort it takes to maintain and manage the content. Leaving the uploading of new assets to whoever has a bit of spare time and ignoring all those cataloguing rules we librarians love can turn the best system into a mess that only gets worse.

Our new library site was launched in March 2010 and we’ve seen a fantastic response; during the first year, approximately 60 people were logging on each day. Four years on, we’re getting around 200 users daily, and over 1,300 Plan staff members have accounts.

Eight years after joining Plan, I think the library I worked to create does provide a brilliant service to a lot of people. It also saves our organization money; our 70 offices around the world can share their multimedia assets with one another, limiting the amount of money we have to put into acquiring new pieces. The original investment we made—in the software and in my (extensive) time setting up the new system—has paid off.

I’d like to say that my job is complete, but looking at my inbox I can tell you that 120 new photos have just been uploaded from the Dominican Republic… so I’d better crack on.