Another DAM Podcast

Audio about Digital Asset Management

Another DAM Podcast interview with Donna Slawsky on Digital Asset Management

Donna Slawsky discusses Digital Asset Management

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
  • What makes your course different from all of the other courses available in Digital Asset Management?
  • Do you involve [students] in any other way aside from having speakers and reading blogs? Is there anything the DAM Community can help you with the course?
  • What advice would you have to share with other Digital Asset Management Professionals or people aspiring to become Digital Asset Management Professional such as your students or other students?


Henrik de Gyor: [0:01] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today, I’m speaking with Donna Slawsky.
Donna, how are you?
Donna Slawsky: [0:09] I’m good, Henrik. Thank you for asking me to participate
in this exciting series, and thanks for doing it.
Henrik: [0:15] No problem. Donna, how are you involved in Digital Asset
Donna: [0:19] At the current moment, I teach a course for the Columbia School
of Continuing Education. It’s part of the Information and Digital Resource
Management Master’s Program, and the course is called, appropriately, Digital
Asset Management. I’m preparing for the second semester now. [0:46] We
usually have between 10 and 15 students at various points in the program. They
come from differing backgrounds. We have people from IT. I’ve had administrative
assistants. I’ve had executive assistants, middle managers. Most of the
people in the class come into the program with little or no background in this
sort of Digital Asset Management or digital resource management.
Henrik: [1:21] You give them that. That’s great.
Donna: [1:23] It’s a lot to give in 15 sessions, but we do the best we can. [laughs]
Henrik: [1:29] Excellent. You teach this course at Columbia University. Tell us
more about this course. What makes your course different than all the other
DAM courses that are available in Digital Asset Management?
Donna: [1:42] Any course or any seminar or any talk on any subject reflects the
particular background, personality, and experience of the instructor and also of
the department in which the course is taught. Interestingly, I’m writing an article
for the Journal of Digital Asset Management for the fall of 2010. Looking at your
list, Henrik, of higher education courses, and also I’ve done a little of my own
research. [2:14] It’s interesting, the course is taught in different departments,
depending upon the school. In our school, it’s Information and Digital Resource
Management. Where John Horodyski teaches, out in San Jose, University of
California, he teaches out of the Library School.
There’s also a course at Simmons out of the Library School, but other courses are
taught out of graphics departments, technology departments, depends on your
perspective. My course is unique, because for me I’m a librarian, that’s my background,
and I approach Digital Asset Management as predominantly a repository
for assets and the challenge being the retrieval and the metadata piece.
[3:07] That’s my expertise; taxonomy, metadata and so my courses have a focus
on that because of my background. However, we do cover introduction to DAM,
building the case for DAM, user requirements and Digital Rights Management,
workflow, managing video, indexing a retrieval and the DAM market place, all
that. We also cover preservation, archives and digitization, which I really think is
an important piece for the students to understand.
[3:47] This isn’t only done in corporations, a very important use of DAM is in
museums, libraries, and digitization projects for archives preservation. We do
have a guest speaker come in to speak about that. The other thing that I think is
unique about the course is that I try to make it a very diverse educational experience,
so I’m not coming in there just speaking and lecturing every week.
[4:20] I have a lot of guest speakers. I think it’s very important for students to
have exposure to people in the field. This semester I have seven speakers lined
up. An expert in workflow, I have somebody from the book publishing area,
somebody from magazine publishing, and I even have a couple of vendors
coming in to speak.
[4:45] I have Matthew Gonnering from Widen coming in to speak about SAAS…
Software as a Service. Because I find that student get confused about that, as
did I when I first learned about it. Versus hosting, versus the cloud and all that.
[5:09] Also, we do follow blogs including yours, and I ask the students to comment
on the blogs using our class Wiki. I try to make it more diverse than just
sitting here in the classroom reading your readings and sort of regurgitating
back what I say every week. I really try to keep it almost like a graduate seminar.
Henrik: [5:38] Great. It sounds like you involve the DAM community quite a
bit. Do you involve them any other way other than having speakers and reading
blogs? Is there anything else that the DAM community can help you with
the course?
Donna: [5:51] Yeah. As matter of fact, thank you for asking. One of the things
that I’m doing different this semester is that I’m following the lead of some
instructors I had when I was taking my Masters in Library Science, which is, that
we visited a site, either an achieve or a library. I would like each student to visit
one DAM site.
Henrik: [6:18] An organization using a DAM?
Donna: [6:22] That’s right. It could be any organization, small, large. It could be
a photography studio. It could be an advertising agency, a museum, a library.
Anywhere where Digital Asset Management is employed. I would like the students
to actually see the DAM in action. [6:42] It will be demoed for them, talk
to the manager and using what they’ve learned, especially in the first half of
the course, it will be a midterm. Ask their own questions and I of course will
have questions for them. Anybody who is interested, would like to participate
and provide a site for us, even if it’s through Skype, as Henrik, you suggested
you could do.
[7:06] They could contact me a I would really appreciate,
even if we don’t use the site this semester, perhaps we could use it next
semester. Thank you for mentioning that.
Henrik: [7:24] I think that it’s a great idea to involve the students with actual real
use cases and real world cases of DAM. That’s a great idea.
Donna: [7:32] Some of the challenges of teaching as you know, is you’re stuck
in a classroom. Digital Asset Management although I really believe it’s not a
technological solution. I think it’s much more. I think it’s about findability, it’s
about search, it’s about retrieval, it’s about being a repository for an entire organization.
[7:57] Also, it impacts greatly on your corporate culture and it impacts
on how Digital Asset Management is employed. There’s a lot more involved than
just technology. It’s really important for students and people in Digital Asset
Management to understand that you really need to analyze the organization’s
specific needs and requirements and not just through a technology solution at it.
[8:29] I try to instill that in my students. It is still necessary to see Digital Asset
Management systems. They have to see what Digital Asset Management software
looks like. How actually you upload, download, how versioning works, how
workflow looks like within the system. We are going to introduce some demos
this semester.
[8:58] Seeing a DAM in action and putting all of these term papers up on our
Wiki, everyone will have an opportunity to see all of these different Digital
Asset Management settings. I’m hoping that this really enhances the experience
for them.
Henrik: [9:17] I bet it will. What advice do you have to share with other DAM
professionals, or even people aspiring to be DAM professionals such as your
students or other students?
Donna: [9:27] I think my experience with Digital Asset Management so far and
I think that it’s most peoples experiences most people become Digital Asset
Managers or involved in Digital Asset Management, not necessarily because
they intended to do that in their career. [9:45] In other words they were recruited
into that position from another position. Either they were a librarian, or they’re
manager of a photo studio, or they’re in an advertising department of some
kind and they need somebody to serve this function. I think going out there and
really following the blogs, like yours and others, and following what’s going on
in the profession reading, listening to the free webinars that are available, these
podcasts that you’re making available and others have made available is critical
to staying on top of what’s going on.
[10:23] You shouldn’t feel like you’re alone in this because there are a lot of
people out there writing about and speaking about Digital Asset Management.
If you can afford to go to conferences, of course, that’s ideal also. Really network
it out there, go to LinkedIn, join the DAM community, the groups on
LinkedIn. You’re going to learn most of what you need on the job. I told this to
my students, it’s not a theoretical, there’s a lot you have to learn on the job so
you shouldn’t think you have to know everything going into it.
[10:57] Don’t panic, it’s going to be fine, you’re going to just learn as you go
along because you probably know more than anybody else does going into it
anyway because they’re hiring you to learn. That’s what you have to remember.
[11:13] I would say, enlist the help or advice of others who have implemented
DAM projects successfully but also know that every single DAM implementation
is different. That’s really key and that’s what you get out of reading the case
studies in the journal of Digital Asset Management, etc.
[11:32] It’s because every organization has different people, different cultural
norms and they need really to understand that, they did it this way but maybe
we can use a little from this case study, a little from that case study and your
vendors will work with you, with what your needs are if they are a good vendor.
[11:57] Also that you can’t know it all, you’re not going to able to be an expert
on workflow, metadata, taxonomy and also the technology and also be a curator
because a lot of times you need to be a curator. That’s what I did when
I was at Scholastic. I actually selected the photographs and illustrations to go
into the DAM.
[12:19] You can’t be an expert in all of these areas. Especially at the beginning of
a project I highly recommend that you hire consultants to help you. There are a
lot of really good people out there so don’t feel like you have to know it all.
[12:37] Always include users in the planning and include users along the whole
process of implementation. Even while the DAM is up and running constantly
have your users involved in making it better, giving you feedback because that’s
so important for adoption. You need to buy in from all of your users. It’s the big
reason for the failure of some DAM projects.
[13:01] I’ve seen this many times and you need to keep those users involved and
familiar yourself with metadata, with what metadata is. There’s a lot out there on
the Web about simple explanations of metadata, complex explanations you can
look up for yourself.
[13:22] Look at Dublin Core, it’s actually simple 15 fields. It’s a great way to start
with metadata. There’s something called MODS that is also very good, that’s
video metadata standards available, you don’t have to create your own metadata
[13:38] You can mix and match from various metadata standards and that’s pretty
much what I would say about implementing DAM for people who are about
to get involved in it and my students…they’re going to go into it at entry level.
DAM is very multifaceted.
[14:03] There is so much to learn. It’s impossible to come out of a Master’s program
or after taking a seminar or course and know it all, you can’t. It’s going to
take time to just learn about it, but remember you know more than anyone in
your organization and you will learn as you go along.
Henrik: [14:19] I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Donna. For more on this and
other topics about Digital Asset Management go to
Thanks again.

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Author: Henrik de Gyor

Consultant. Podcaster. Writer.

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