A DAM Diverse Career Field for Information Professionals

Earlier this year, I attended a meetup of local librarians, and kept hearing the acronym “DAM” come up in conversation. It took some questioning to figure out that folks was not referring to an embankment, but rather, digital asset management or “DAM”. As I talked more with folks and heard more about the work of a digital asset manager, I was amazed at the diversity of jobs available for librarians for a job title I hadn’t ever heard of until that evening (and you can’t beat the great acronym).

So what does DAM actually mean? You may have heard DAM referred to as media asset management (MAM), digital media management (DMM), or digital archiving, which are all a handful of terms that commonly refer to the practice of DAM. John Horodyski, a longtime DAM professional and associate professor at San Jose State University offers the following definition of DAM:

DAM (Digital Asset Management) is the business process of managing digital multi-media assets including ingestion, cataloging, storage, retrieval, security, and distribution to serve access to those digital assets for strategic use and re-use and future access as directed by the business. (Horodyski, 2012, 13:22)

While there are similarities between DAM and MAM, Horodyski makes the distinction that DAM specifically refers only to digital content that needs to be re-used according to organizational needs.

DAM first developed with the growth print assets and gradually evolved to encompass digital multimedia. With the proliferation of digital content, many private companies and other institutions are recognizing the need for DAM to manage their digital assets. For example, a media company might need to track of and protect different video cuts or audio tracks, or a library may embark on a digitization project for a special collection. Or perhaps an organization is looking to manage its marketing materials so logos and other assets may be easily accessed and repurposed. DAM can provide a means to protect and safely store information so it is findable, thereby saving both time and money.

Why should library school students give a DAM? Library and information professionals are uniquely qualified to tackle the work of DAM (Slawsky, 2010). While a general understanding of technology and particular understanding of media formats is important for digital asset managers, Slawsky (2010) asserted that information retrieval management skills, not technological skills, are of central importance, as these skills can be applied to evolving technologies. Additionally, Horodyski (2012) identified metadata, taxonomy, preservation, and rights management as key areas of knowledge required for DAM professionals. In addition, advocacy and persuasiveness are crucial for DAM professionals to demonstrate the business need for and value of implementing DAM solutions (and perhaps rallying the reluctant coworker to use them).

Slawsky (2010) also noted the growing number of DAM courses in MLIS programs, which suggests that higher education programs are recognizing the importance of training to equip MLIS students to enter this job field. Simmons, Pratt, and San Jose State University are among the information school programs that regularly offer DAM courses.

If you’re curious and want to learn more, here’s several great resources:

• John Horodyski’s Digital Asset Management (DAM) 101 offers a terrific overview of the field of digital asset management for information professionals.

Another DAM Podcast with Henrik de Gyor provides audio interviews with different DAM professionals.

• Operated by Digital Asset Management News, the collaboratively maintained DAM Glossary provides definitions for DAM-related terms http://damglossary.org/

Planet DAM is a curated list of digital asset management news culled by DAM professional, Tim Strehle.

Horodyski, J. (2012) [Web conference presentation]. Faculty speaker: Digital asset management (DAM) 101. Retrieved from http://scholarworks.sjsu.edu/sjsuasist/21/
Slawsky, D. (2010). Teaching digital asset management in a higher education setting. Journal of Digital Asset Management, 6, 349. doi:10.1057/dam.2010.42

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on April 13, 2017.

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