Conway's article on digital imaging error wins 2014 Shera prize

Paul Conway

Associate Professor of Information Paul Conway has been selected as the 2014 winner of the Library Research Round Table’s (LRRT) Jesse H. Shera Award for Distinguished Public Research

Conway was recognized for his article “Preserving Imperfection: Assessing the Incidence of Digital Imaging for Error in HathiTurst,” published in Preservation, Digital Technology, & Culture.

The article reports the findings and implications of a multi-year quantitative and qualitative assessment of images created from print materials by Google Books and deposited in HathiTrust, a large-scale repository of digital content from research libraries. The findings suggest that imperfections in these digital images are inevitable and have become, and will remain, entrenched in collaborative preservation repositories.

The study examined digital volumes for imaging errors such as missing pages, thick text, broken text, warped pages, obscured content, and other issues, and found that only a minority of volumes in HathiTrust are free of minor errors. The research found that low-level imperfections do not limit the readability of digitized text and it might not be worthwhile to reprocess digital images to remove minor imperfections.

In selecting the article as the Shera Award winner, LRRT noted: “Conway's article exemplifies well-defined research, with a clear problem statement as well as good application of the research methods. More importantly, however, the research is timely and will contribute significantly to the discussion and analysis of digitization of current materials, as well as identifying concerns for future research.”

The American Library Association (ALA) formed LRRT in 1968 to contribute toward the extension and improvement of library research by providing public program opportunities for describing and evaluating library research projects and for disseminating their findings. LRRT also serves as a forum for discussion and action on issues related to the literature and information needs for the field of library and information science.

Conway is the second UMSI faculty member to win the Shera Award in recognition of excellence in research. Professor of Information Karen Markey won in 2000 for her article “End-User Understanding of Subject Heading in Library Catalogs.” Presented annually, the honor is the top research publication award given by the ALA.

Posted on June 26, 2014