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Career Strategies for Librarians
Metadata and Beyond:  The Life of a Corporate Digital Archivist
by Karen Holt

Do you love metadata?  Do you enjoy searching for files that no one can find?  Would you like to have the
option of telecommuting?  If so, being a corporate Digital Archivist may be the perfect job for you!

What does a Digital Archivist do?

In the corporate context a Digital Archivist (also known as a Digital Asset Librarian or a Digital Asset
Manager) manages the company’s assets in a digital asset management (DAM) system.    In my role as
a Digital Archivist, I work with the web design team to ensure that all of the content created for the
company’s Web site is properly uploaded and cataloged, making it easily discoverable.  This content
ranges from web banners and videos to logos, lifestyle images, and product shots.   
As the first Digital Archivist at my company, I was given the task of designing and implementing a
metadata schema, archiving workflows, and file naming standards.  Now that these processes are in
place, I upload and tag all of the design content.  Additionally, I work on side projects, such as creating
video tutorials focused on searching the DAM.  I also work very closely with the database management
team to implement new features.  I do not actually do any work in the database’s backend, but having a
good understanding of how databases work has been very beneficial for making persuasive arguments
about incorporating new features.  Because numbers are incredibly important in a corporate
environment, I am also responsible for creating monthly and quarterly reports that show how many files
have been archived in the DAM.  

What skills should I have?  

After a month in this position, I realized that the most important library school classes for my job were
organizing information, database management, cataloging, and reference.  The crux of my job is
uploading and describing assets, so understanding how to make images and videos findable in a
database is really important.  Additionally, knowing how to search a database will allow you to offer
reference services to your team, which will make you very popular!

Advantages and Disadvantages

Working as a digital archivist in a high tech company can be a fairly solitary endeavor.  You may be the
only information professional at your company.  As the solo Digital Archivist, I am considered the expert
in my field, and I am given a lot of latitude to implement projects; however, I do not have any
library/archivist colleagues to collaborate with.  Because this is such a new field, it can be difficult to
meet others who hold a similar position.  I have joined a variety of professional organizations in search
of professional development opportunities, but none of them have directly met my professional needs.
At my company it has been very easy to have a great work/life balance.  We are able to telecommute at
least one day a week, which means that I frequently work from one of my favorite coffee shops with a
reliable wireless connection.  If you have a sick child, you can work from home, which eliminates the
need to take a sick day to care for a family member.

How can I find a job like this?

Not many of the available positions in this field are advertised on the traditional LIS job sites like ALA’s
JobLIST or SLA’s Career Center.   When I found this position, I had actually googled “Librarian + job +
Austin” which led me to job ad on Indeed.com that began “Do you have the mind of a librarian…”  Other
sites that are useful for locating digital asset management positions are Simply Hired and Juju.  These
search engines pull jobs from a variety of job boards and company Web sites throughout the country.
There is no standardized job title for this position, so searching on a variety of job titles, such as Digital
Archivist, Digital Asset Manager, Digital Asset Librarian, and Digital Asset Specialist, will yield more
results.

Conclusion

Nearly a year after the creation of my position, having a Digital Archivist on staff is now deemed so
necessary to the operation of the interactive marketing team that there is discussion of adding a second
digital archivist position as the department grows.  My company is certainly not alone in recognizing the
need to hire information professionals to manage their digital assets.  This is definitely a growing field,
and I predict there will be many more of these positions available in the future.

About the Author

Karen Holt is the Digital Archivist at Advanced Micro Devices in Austin, Texas.  She obtained her MA in
Modern Art and Theory from the University of Essex, and her MS in Information Studies from the
University of Texas at Austin.

Article published March 2010

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represent the views of the LIScareer editors.