Another DAM Podcast

Audio about Digital Asset Management

Another DAM Podcast interview with Jake Nadal on Digital Asset Management

Here are the questions asked:

  • How are you involved in Digital Asset Management?
  • How do you deal the challenges of cultural heritage and DAM?
  • What advice would you have for DAM professionals or people aspiring to become DAM professionals?


Henrik de Gyor: [0:02] This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. My name is Henrik de Gyor. Today I am speaking with Jake
Nadal. Jake, how are you?
Jacob Nadal: [0:11] Real well, Henrik. Thank you.
Henrik: [0:12] Jake, how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Jacob: [0:16] I am the Preservation Officer for the UCLA Library. I’ve been involved
with the whole digital library effort in some way or another for about a
decade now. Preservation officer, I might explain to you something about it as
two parts, in terms of Digital Asset Management. One of those is kind of trying
to get assets that are worth managing in the first place, and the other is making
sure that all those assets will maintain value. [0:45] They’ll still be usable from
one asset management system to another, that as we sometimes have a planning
horizon that stretches into decades and longer, until we expect that at a
certain point those assets will move from system to system.
[0:59] Both of them are sort of shepherding roles for our digital assets, our
digital material. And I think the thing that unites those is that we look to have
certain technical criteria, certain specifications and standards that we produce
content to. Of course, I work with a great team all across the UCLA library and
the UCLA system. We’re really a set of people with very specific technical competencies
for each step of the chain.
Henrik: [1:26] Excellent. How do you deal with the challenges of cultural heritage
and DAM?
Jacob: [1:33] There again, I think there are two parts here. One, and probably
the most interesting to our audience here, is the actual internal workflow. The
other part is really about what cultural heritage assets are and the particular mission
obligation that comes with that. [1:50] In our workflow, we’ve been talking a
lot about having a three part strategy. It might be better to say a three part test
for preservation activities at UCLA library. One is that we always try to have a
method for doing analysis or doing some information gathering about whatever
our problem is. That leads to a proposed treatment or a course of action. We try
not to act until we have some evidence.
[2:17] And all of that we try to have happen in house and have that be the bulk
of the work, just as a matter of good management. We want to, when we’ve
done out part, have it be more or less ready to go.
[2:30] And then, knowing that we will be either incomplete…We may have subject
expertise that we lack, which is usually the case. If we’re dealing with, say,
an old Armenian scroll and we’re creating a digital version of that, we may need
to talk to language and subject experts to figure out how that will be most
useful to its users.
[2:52] Sometimes that’s an area of technical concern. Very often, as we’re dealing
with, right now, a big topic for us is research data. Our scientists especially
produce enormous research data sets, and in the arts and humanities, it’s very
common now to use multiple sources of data, so there may be news video
feeds, there may be GIS information, and those may come together in a research
[3:22] Very often, within the library itself, we have to manage that asset, or a
group of assets, but we need to look outside to a particular technical expert to
help guide us on the best way to do that. That second stage is sort of outside
review and approval, and then we always try to have a hedge, some strategy
in case things go wrong. Sometimes that’s as simple as just retaining a previous
[3:49] Sometimes that’s retaining an alternate format, so video is an area right
where we know what formats are good for use right now, but we’re very
much uncertain about what formats will be good for use and repurposing even
five years from now, and sometimes an alternate format is simply the authentic
artifact. We may scan a photo, and we may do a lot of work with that scanned
digital version, but, of course, we’re going to keep the original photo.
[4:20] Sometimes that’s identifying a third party provider that we can fall back
on. Especially as we work with publishers, we’re often licensing content to make
available to our users, so we do certain things to care for that content, but then
we will also arrange with that publisher and a third party.
[4:36] A group like Portico is an example, and the LOCKSS Project, or the
CLOCKSS Project. That stands for “Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe.” That’s a
group that operates out of Stanford. They both work with libraries and publishers
to be a third party archiving service, so there’s always a third group that can
provide access.
[4:55] We always try to have some sort of hedge, knowing that we’re kind of
planning for the future, and, of course, that planning for the future part is, in
some ways, the thing we do least, day to day.
[5:08] We have a job just like everybody else, but it’s part of what makes the job
so fantastic, that we’re building this collection, or record, or last resort, and, of
course, the materials we get to work with are incredible artifacts, this wonderful
digital versions of them, and now, increasingly, the born digital research projects
of some of the best and brightest.
[5:29] UCLA, of course, has got a got a pretty interesting community of people
creating digital assets here.
Henrik: [5:35] Excellent. What advice would you have to give to DAM professionals
or people aspiring to become a DAM professional?
Jacob: [5:41] I don’t know if you’re familiar with Tom Peterson, sort of a management
guru management consultant. He has this great catch phrase “Out read
the other guy.” [laughter]
Jacob: [5:54] I find myself saying that a lot lately. My own engagement with the
DAM community comes from recognizing that the conversations I was having
with digital library folks and with preservation colleagues were very similar to
conversations I was encountering in this other community, this Digital Asset
Management community. [6:17] That’s a two way street. I would encourage
anyone in DAM, and especially people who have an interest in the cultural heritage
side of it, to look at your related professions. Look at both the customers
you serve as well as people who maybe share some of the same technical base
and technical infrastructure.
[6:38] Your photographers, your records managers. We’re all trying to do some
of the same things whether we call it library science, inventory management,
manufacturing. The people I find who are at the head of the game and are the
most interesting to work with are the people who can see what can be interpreted
or adapted to fit their means.
[7:03] In cultural heritage specifically there’s some more practical things, or more
immediate things. A number of Library Information Science programs now and
offering specializations in digital libraries and digital information.
[7:18] My alma mater, Indiana University, does a lot of work in this area. There’s a
program called DIGIN, DIGIN, at Arizona. I know Chapel Hill and Michigan more
and more. Of course, they’re all just trying to keep up with UCLA.
Jacob: [7:36] All those programs are worth comparing and considering. Very
specifically in cultural heritage, it’s worth knowing that there’s a bias towards
open and or free software solutions.
Henrik: [7:47] Makes sense.
Jacob: [7:48] If you know that LAMP stack, LINUX, Apache, MySQL, PHP you’re
in really good shape in terms of tech skills. Of course, none of us are out from
under the shadow of Adobe. [8:01] Certainly in my sector a lot of the tools we
use day-to-day look a lot like the tools that are in use elsewhere.
Henrik: [8:10] Of course.
Jacob: [8:12] Or in XML.
Henrik: [8:15] Yes, always important.
Jacob: [8:16] If you’ve got XML, the rest comes pretty easily.
Henrik: [8:19] True. Thanks Jake.
Jacob: [8:21] My pleasure. I’m glad I could do this.
Henrik: [8:23] For more on Digital Asset Management, log on to Thanks again.

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Author: Henrik de Gyor

Consultant. Podcaster. Writer.

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