Digital Initiatives and Web Services Librarian
University of Idaho Library, Moscow
MLS, Indiana University, 2010; MFA, English, University of California, Irvine, 2008
Photo by Kristin Carlson Becker
There’s a poetry to digital collections for Devin Becker, who considered a PhD in creative writing before discovering Indiana University’s Information and Library Science program. He found that information visualization and digital libraries sated his creativity.
“It’s only in the interaction [between] the poem and the reader that the real, lasting effects of poetry can be achieved,” says Becker. “The same goes for a digital collection and the person exploring it. The designer/digital librarian must be thinking about how to present the collection’s material in the most faithful way possible while also inviting a deep experience of the collection.”
Becker’s philosophy and approach have yielded tangible results. With one full- and one part-time staff member and student workers, Becker’s lab has processed nearly 25 new collections composed of thousands of scanned images and documents since his first full year at the library in 2011. Through 2013, unique page views for the library’s digital collections have risen 934 percent, total page views are up 636 percent, and the time users spend on each page is up 30 percent.
Ben Hunter, head of cataloging and collections (and a 2013 Mover & Shaker), calls Becker’s work “transformative.” “Our collections are now exponentially larger, spanning everything from jazz archives to mine interiors, snow load maps to digitized historical yearbooks, and multimedia archived colloquium series to historical postcard collections…. He has increased the usability of these collections in ways we never imagined,” geolocating historic photos, adding time line views for collections, and discovering new ways to present static documents, Hunter says.
Hunter also credits Becker with expanding the university’s digital initiatives program “well beyond its original mission,” playing an instrumental role in the development of an electronic thesis and dissertation program and a growing institutional repository.
Becker is still connected to his writing roots. For his latest project he’s traveling around the country interviewing poets and writers on how their practices have changed with the advent of personal computing.