DAM Champ: Sarah Karolski

DAM champ Sarah Karolski is a specialist in web content management and digital asset management (DAM). She is also an MLIS grad and Wayne State University’s unofficial DAM evangelist.

DAM champ: Someone who supports finding, setting up, or maintaining a digital asset management system (DAM). There is a wide variety in DAM champions, who come from positions in production, creative, management, IT, and marketing.

Sarah Karolski What has been your role in supporting or organizing a DAM project?

In fall of 2013, I was hired to implement and manage a DAM system for Rock Ventures and their family of companies. I worked as a liaison between executive leaders, marketing, and technology. This was the first system of its kind, and I was lucky in that it was supported by executive leadership, content creators, content users, and content strategists. I focused on the information architecture, controlled vocabulary, metadata, permissions, workflows, training, and system maintenance, working very closely with our vendor and stakeholders. I also hired a small team of information professionals who brought to the team their own expertise and skill set in the areas of archives and digital preservation.


You have an MLIS degree. How have your library skills helped you be a better DAM champ?

From a systems standpoint, my focus has always been on connecting users with a well-designed information management system to aid in the discovery of content. It was my library science education that taught me the principles of information architecture, information management, and the importance of standards. The skills involved in building websites were easily transferable to building out a DAM system, since both involved focusing on the organization of information.

From a service-oriented standpoint, my library background has helped me connect users with the right information in the appropriate format as quickly as possible. Just because I am no longer working in a public library doesn’t mean I don’t still need to conduct information interviews. It’s because of my background and experience as an information professional that I have been able to successfully bridge the gaps between people, technology, and information in the field of DAM.  

What advice would you give to other librarians looking to work in digital asset management?

First and foremost, be passionate about whatever it is that brought you into the field of librarianship because it will be many of those same skills that will set you apart from others in the field of DAM. Being passionate about something usually goes hand-in-hand with being good at it — this usually leads to opportunity finding you — instead of the other way around.

Rather than waiting for a DAM job to come along, try to recognize a DAM-related opportunity when it is in front of you. Perhaps the organization you currently work for is struggling with its own digital assets or you interview for a non-related DAM role but upon listening to their pain points, realize what they actually need is a DAM system. What better way to get into DAM than recognizing the need and being willing to take on the challenge?

Get into the habit of always evaluating the effectiveness of products and processes and successfully identifying pain points and communicating solutions clearly. This entails asking a lot of questions and being able to see not only the big picture but things from a variety of different perspectives. This is also going to help you as a DAM professional, whether it be improving a user’s workflow or connecting two systems together that previously were not integrated.

“Fall in love with metadata, both adding it and improving on it. This is where you will spend a lot of your time, so you really have to enjoy it.”

Finally, I highly recommend networking with those already working in the field, whether it be reaching out to via social media or attending industry conferences like Henry Stewart or local Meetups. I also recommend getting your hands on a few DAM and taxonomy books; there are a lot more available now than there were back when I started. The internet is also a great resource; there are a ton of pre-recorded conference videos, interviews, and general overviews on DAM to learn from. It also helps to explore and familiarize yourself with the different DAM solutions on the market.

How did you find out about DAM systems as a way to deal with digital assets?

Honestly, I had no idea DAM systems existed before I was hired to build one out. I had always worked in content management systems (CMS) and dealt with digital assets within its constructs or via a workaround using a third-party free service.

I now realize content management systems are great for storing and publishing web content, but not so much for the storage, organization, distribution, and management of digital media files. Once you have interacted with both, you quickly realize not only how very different they are, but how much they complement one another when used together.

Why is DAM important?

A DAM is an integral part of an organization’s business. It not only serves as an archive, but a growing, living digital content library that is constantly getting new content added to its virtual shelves, just waiting to be found, used, and shared across any number of touchpoints.

Without the proper tool (a DAM) and governance, employees are left to their own devices, resorting to a number of different makeshift solutions to store and share their digital assets (usually without metadata).

What is most challenging about convincing other people that DAM is important?

Getting people to think differently about long-standing, inefficient processes they have grown accustomed to and now accept as the norm. People are naturally resistant to change.

What advice would you give to people who are trying to get a DAM system in their organization?

Be patient and don’t give up. Find the one decision maker who will listen and turn him or her into a DAM advocate. You will need leadership level buy-in if you want your DAM initiative to succeed.

Are you a DAM Champ or do you know one? We want to talk to you! Submit your contact information here or connect with us on Twitter.

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