Why Use Spotlight?

Welcome to the University of Victoria Libraries' Spotlight tutorial page

This tutorial will teach you how to use Spotlight to create exhibits on the library server and assumes that you have no previous experience building exhibits using Spotlight. 

If this is your first time visiting this page, we recommend you read the entire page. If you are returning, you can jump right back in to the tutorial by using the left navigation panel on the left. Simply click on the page you would like to go to. 

What is Spotlight? 

"Spotlight is an application that extends the repository ecosystem by providing a means for institutions to reuse digital content in easy-to-produce, attractive, and scholarly-oriented websites." 

There are different resources available for building exhibits. But, only a few systems have been built by information professionals who care about long-term preservation and avoiding duplicating efforts.

As researchers collaborate with librarians in the field of digital scholarship, there are many opportunities for us to create rich resources for our community that will have lasting impact. Spotlight harnesses the expertise of librarians and archivists in order to allow members of the community to build rich exhibits using professionally created metadata and other digital objects.

How Spotlight Works: In a Nutshell

Many libraries and archives preserve digital objects in an institutional repository. Experts in metadata creation, digitization, and systems all collaborate to ensure long-term access to cultural heritage objects. 

More and more, professors, students, and other researchers want to use these digital objects to create narrative-rich exhibits in order to tell the story about particular times and places through these digital objects. But not everyone can train to be an expert in metadata and long-term preservation. Spotlight was created so that librarians and archivists could describe digital objects once in the institutional repository (in order to ensure accessibility and long-term preservation), while allowing members of the larger community to use those objects an infinite number of times to create its own unique exhibits. This system saves a lot of time and ensures that the community's work meets certain standards to help preserve its work.

Why Use Spotlight? Avoiding Silos

In the past, exhibits have tended to be built in bespoke programs that are built for the sole purpose of that one show. A curator (or team of curators) could spend weeks, months, or even years developing a site with images and text to tell a story. But there are two problems: 1. That work might not be interoperable with other digital systems; 2. All the work put into that exhibit is at risk of disappearing if there isn't a preservation plan (and funding) to account for technologies changing over time. 

We call these types of exhibits "silos." 

Working Together: Create. Collaborate. Conserve.  

In order to avoid the problem of silos, librarians, archivists, and researchers have developed tools that allow users to contribute to shared resources that benefit the entire community. For example, when an object is digitized, librarians and archivists need to describe it using international standards--we describe objects using metadata and controlled vocabularies. Librarians and archivists train for years to do this work, which helps us curate digital objects over time as well as well make them findable to users. When a person searches for an object in a repository, a complicated process takes place that matches the search terms with the associated metadata terms for a particular object. 

Researchers like you provide important information as well. Librarians and archivists train to describe objects, but we are not necessarily trained to contextualize that material within scholarly paradigms. We might not know why something is important to a scholarly community or how one digital object relates to another digital object. For example, a Victorian or Modernist periodical scholar might know that The Germ is often credited as being the first "little magazine" that influenced many other little magazines and artists that came after it. The researcher can add that information--the "why"--to library collections, which then enhances the shared collection of material curated by the institution for everyone else. 

By working together, we have an opportunity to create lasting, meaningful collections that serve our communities over time. This method may be considered the opposite of the silo model. 

Technologies Will Change

The major problem with the silo model is that technologies change over time. It is very difficult to plan for and execute preservation plans for bespoke projects that use non-standard software. By building exhibitions in software developed by librarians and archivists, exhibitors help librarians and archivists plan for long-term preservation as well as for data migration. Even though software changes over time, we know we have a much better chance of porting information data to new systems when it is standardized and well-formed--just like it is in the Spotlight system. 

Building a Shared Future

By using Spotlight, you are building towards a future of feature-rich content that can be shared across our communities. You might not find every tool you are looking for, but because Spotlight is an open, community-supported platform, it too will grow as more and more people help develop it.