Connected Libraries

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Let’s start the blog posts with an outline of the nature and value of connected media libraries as this will provide some background philosophy that informs what we’re doing at Tandem Vault.

It’s increasingly important for media libraries to have expanded connectivity. This could be the ability for one person to access the library from multiple devices; or the ability to access the library by multiple people. It could also be the ability to allow other software to make direct use of the media. For corporate and institutional uses, connectivity has become an essential component (and that was before we all started working remotely). Here’s a quick overview of several structural approaches to connectivity:

Reasons to connect

  • Digital assets on multiple devices and places – We’ve grown accustomed to having access to our digital files from many different places. This has primarily been driven by mobile computing, where we make, consume, and share our visual media.
  • Controlled distribution to others – Distribution has always been an important need for institutional collections. This need has greatly accelerated as the pace of visual communication has increased. Whenever possible, distribution should be done directly from the library in order to capture and leverage usage information.
  • Employee and stakeholder access – Visual media creation and use by employees and stakeholders is expanding rapidly, creating an increased need for access. This requires both the collection and distribution of visual images on a widespread basis.
  • Collecting media from employees and stakeholders – In addition to media access, it’s now commonplace for companies and institutions to gather, centralize, tag and deploy media that is created by employees and other stakeholders.
  • Share with other applications and services – You may also want to share your media collection with other services like social media platforms. While this can be done with a simple export, sharing by a connected export (more on this later) streamlines the process and may allow you to bring valuable information back into the library.
  • Integrate with other systems – If you use a CMS, or one of the many variations of these—like a Product Information Management (PIM) or Building Information Management (BIM)—it may be important to integrate the library directly. This is usually done by an Application Program Interface (API).
  • Tagging services and connected data – Our creation and use of metadata is moving quickly to one that relies on external helpers. This includes computational tagging services and data that lives in external databases.
  • Provide a firewall – It’s become increasingly dangerous for corporate networks and servers to be open to remote or third-party access. The need for access has made this hard to secure. By using a remote library service for media collection and distribution, risks can be reduced for a company’s main data servers.

Methods for connection

There are several structures that are used to connect media libraries to multiple people or devices. Each of these has advantages for some uses, and you’ll find a number of apps and services that utilize multiple methods to enable different kinds of workflow.

  • One application across multiple devices – Connectivity can be managed by a single application. This is a feature of photographer tools like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. We also see this with file-sharing services like Dropbox, where the installation of the app can manage the distribution of files to others with the same app.
  • A web-accessible library – Another structure for integration is the use of a web-accessible library. A copy of the media can live in a cloud server and be made available to different users. This allows for multi-party access, and in some cases it will allow for multi-party upload to the library.
  • Integration through API – Real integration is typically achieved through the use of an API to enable one app or service to talk to another. This is a very common approach in modern software and services, and powers most of the connectivity.
  • Integration through embedding – It’s also frequently possible for a web-based media library to allow media objects to be embedded in other services.

This post is adapted from The DAM Book 3.0 which lays out these principles in comprehensive form.

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