The Widen digital asset manager series: Being a Widen DAMster – with Kevin Powell of Brown University

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Kevin Powell

Kevin is a full-time Global Admin at Brown University. He grew up in Lubbock, Texas and received a B.A. in History from Texas Tech University. From there he went to The University of Texas at Austin School of Information, where he got into digital asset management through an internship. His supervisor at UT saw this job posted on a librarian listserv, forwarded it to him, and now he lives in Rhode Island!

Kevin Powell workspace

1. How long have you been a Widen user?
Brown has been a Widen customer since late 2012, and I’ve been at Brown since June of 2013. I’m one of three Global Admins, but I’m the only one working with the DAM full-time.
2. How often do you use the Media Collective?
I was hired as a Digital Asset Specialist, which means asset management is my 40-hour per week job. Brown University needed to hire someone as a full-time DAM manager to get the system on its feet. Since we have many different types of users, we needed someone to develop standards, train people all over campus on how to use the system, and upload/describe large sets of assets.
3. In what area(s) of your organization is Widen’s DAM system being used?
I am a Library employee, but I work out of the office of Public Affairs and University Relations (PAUR), where Brown’s photographer is based. PAUR is using the DAM pretty heavily to organize and distribute photography. Our Division of Advancement, which has multiple subgroups and content creators, is also a very active user.

Other content-creating departments use the system, too. Brown’s Watson Institute for International Studies, Department of Continuing Education, Graphic Services team, and Media Production Group were integral in configuring Brown’s DAM. Administrative departments around campus are interested in using the DAM to organize content, but most people use it to find images for web and print publications.
Our DAM is not a public-facing database at the moment. We grant access to people off-campus on an as-needed basis (e.g. contracted photographers and designers). PAUR handles media relations, so we do get external requests for photographs from time-to-time. In those cases, we want to direct them to a curated collection of photos. We’re very interested in utilizing the new public collections feature that Widen is releasing soon for this purpose.
4. For what kinds of activities are you using it?
Primarily, I‘m the main uploader of material for the PAUR department. Our photographer has been here since 2010, and his predecessor worked here for about 10 years. We still have all of those photos from 2000 to 2010 on CDs in filing cabinets. I’m responsible for:

  • Curating old and new PAUR photoshoots for the DAM and deciding how many users will see content.
  • Being a point of contact between Widen and all University departments.
  • Training users every month or so by discussing configurations, walking through certain functions, and talking through workflows.
  • Maximizing DAM effectiveness across campus.
  • Ensuring adequate documentation of standards.
  • Tagging assets, adding/editing metadata (other admins do this, too).

I aim for the DAM be as self-serve as possible. I’m trying to build a tool where designated administrators in contributing departments can build their own DAM teams. These teams can then curate their own content and enter their own metadata. I guide them with this process as much as I can, but I also want contributors to have a sense of ownership over their DAM space. I’m still relatively new to Brown, so I don’t know everything about their content. For this reason, helps for contributing departments to input their own metadata.
5. How do your users use the Collective?
Most people right now are logging in to find and/or download something for a publication of some kind. However, there is growing interest among departments to organize and describe their own material with the DAM.
6. What is the most useful thing the Media Collective does for you?
I’m very pleased with how we’ve delegated permissions. Administrative structures vary by department, so it’s nice we could create something that adapts to those variations. Media Collective has the ability to quickly share assets with one person, an entire department, or the entire campus community. I like that flexibility.
7. What are your favorite apps on your smart phone?
I enjoy photo and music apps. I’m a really big fan of Instagram. It’s a great way to stay in touch with my friends and family who are living in so many different places right now. I also get a lot of enjoyment out of the Spotify app.
8. Which tech websites or blogs do you follow?
I don’t follow anything religiously, but there are some favorites I check in on. One of these is “The Signal”. It is published by The Library of Congress and posts interesting stuff related to digital preservation. Archives and digital preservation were my focuses in graduate school, so I like to keep in touch with developments in those fields.

I should also shout out the Brown University Library blog, Curio - it showcases digitized versions of items in the Library’s collections.
9. What do you think is the most important thing other users should know about using a digital asset management system?
I would underscore the word management. I think some people feel as if systems like this one can be wound up like a clock and left running. Our system requires human intervention to adhere to standards, especially since our content creators are spread all over campus. It helps to reach out personally and help contributors make effective use of the DAM.
There is a lot of automation in Media Collective, but at the end of the day the DAM needs someone to take care of it and make sure its being used correctly. There are definitely systems that can be admined part-time, but for a University that is complex with a lot of moving parts, we benefit from someone managing it full-time.

Topics: Customer Stories, DAMsters

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