Archive for June, 2009


Nontraditional funding, or: how I learned to ask for money

Back in May I participated in a WebJunction webinar called “Finding Funds for Preservation.” The guest speaker was the Library of Congress’ Diane Vogt-O’Connor, who spoke candidly about the process of wooing potential funders as well as the potential for tapping non-traditional funding sources. She used the webinar as an opportunity to introduce the 2009 Foundation Grants for Preservation in Libraries, Archives, and Museums, a free PDF available from the Foundation Center and LC.

The presentation was valuable to me as a new librarian/archivist, especially as Diane addressed the need to network and not be afraid to ask potential grantfunders what they want to see in a grantee. She also highlighted the diversity of potential funding sources and emphasized the need to sell the concept, the impact, or “why bother?” of your project — not how you will do the work when/if you get the grant.

While I am still in the “cold call” phase of fundraising, I have come to appreciate the value of regional resources. The North Carolina Room lacks secure space for its special collections and archival materials, has no archival boxes or other storage, and these materials definitely have not been processed and described. Essentially, I realized, I would be starting an archival program from scratch.

With the blessing of our administration, I applied for a small grant to support the construction of a locking cage for our department through the North Carolina Preservation Consortium. I emphasized our stakeholders and what would happen if we did not get this grant, as well as steps I would want to take after gaining a secure storage area (boxes, etc). I researched many vendors for the most affordable price and kept the final estimate under the maximum grant amount ($2000). The result: last week I got notice that the grant application had been approved!

Our local genealogy society and historical society often have fundraisers to help purchase books they feel would be of use to the local history and genealogy collection in the North Carolina Room. This year, however, I asked my supervisor if we might be able to request funds for archival boxes and folders to process and house some of our genealogical manuscripts and special collections. We humbly requested $1000 altogether for the purchase of these supplies and were quickly approved by both organizations.

Also, this afternoon I found out that we have been awarded the IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf, which includes books to help educate our staff about the care of special collections. It might be considered a “mini-grant” but it is another form of funding that we would not have had otherwise.

Traditional, large sources of funding such as LSTA provide incredible resources to libraries, museums, and archives doing large and impressive projects.¬†Smaller grants provided by nontraditional, smaller, regional funders can help us take steps toward a legitimate archival program and resources to provide access to our community’s history.

09 subject guides

Librarians love to create subject guides.  Most academic libraries have created 2.0 subject guides to promote resources online subscription-based services such as LibGuides. For low-budget and/or public libraries, alternatives have emerged to help librarians contextualize multiple research sources online.

As described by Swiss Army Librarian and iLibrarian, these 2.0 subject guides are being created using resources like and Squidoo — for free.¬† See aforementioned posts for examples, including MIT Libraries. These and other free social bookmarking services allow libraries to create subject guides that are familiar to many young users. One drawback: potential for lost bookmarks if website fails (be sure to back up regularly!)

Because our department does not have resources for subscription-based services, I created a page for the North Carolina Room. Using some of our most popular resources for local history, genealogy, law, and government, I was able to categorize and describe some of the excellent resources available to our patrons. We now have over 130 resources that can be accessed by browsing or searching the page and we have linked our to our website-as-blog (see the homepage — we’ve called it “New Links” to avoid intimidating patrons with unfamiliar terms).

A relatively recent article in Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research by Edward M. Corrado describes the benefits and drawbacks of using social bookmarking to create up-to-the-minute reference subject guides. Corrado emphasizes the potential for collaboration between librarians and students, as well as between librarians and other librarians. For us, the benefits are clear: to make available quickly our “staff favorites” and frequently used reference sources.


One library’s trash…

…is another’s stored collection.

My department has a long history of collecting. Our most recent department head was famous for coming to the local history room at least once a month with a bag or two filled with genealogy manuscripts, rare books, and general curiosities — only to have them placed in our storage closet.

This type of acquisition-based system is not new or unfamiliar to many archivists. Nearly every special collections department has its stored collections, its undocumented acquisitions, its “what is that?” The good news is that processing archivists work hard to inventory and create finding aids for these record groups and objects.

Sometime in the last decade, our department acquired the entire contents of Wake Forest University’s vertical file collection. In approximately 14 banker’s boxes, our library suddenly acquired about 40 years worth of newspaper clippings, brochures, and other ephemera, arranged by topic. Our department has its own sizable vertical file collection that is frequently used to supplement research into old issues of the Winston-Salem Journal and other local newspapers (none of which are indexed).

I have to admit, both the WFU and our own vertical files seemed a bit primitive. “You mean…someone had to go through the newspaper and clip these articles out of the newspaper, then file them by topic?” That, along with the fact that our microfilmed newspapers were not indexed (let alone digitized), seemed hard to believe, if not archivally unsound. Both sets of clippings can be found pasted or Scotch-taped to chipboard or construction paper, but some include photocopies of the original clippings. At least they stopped clipping in the early 1990s, when the Journal started getting indexed online.

It was suggested that perhaps we interfile the clippings from Wake Forest with those of our own…but without knowing what already had been clipped, we would be duplicating our work…and with no more filing cabinets to use, expanding our collection by no fewer than a five thousand clippings seemed impossible. My solution? I created an Access database where our library page, my colleagues, and I could index the title, date, topic (as given), publication and page number for each publication — then toss the originals.

So far we have around 500 records in the database. I am not sure if this is the best solution but it is certainly an affordable one. A speaker at ALA Midwinter in Denver accosted a group interested in local history and genealogy about the benefits of going straight to digitization and OCR — and was unyielding in her argument even when a small-town librarian suggested indexing her clipping files.

Of course, digitizing our newspapers and OCR-ing them is my ultimate goal. North Carolina is working to create an historical newspapers program and I am paying careful attention to it. My goal is to learn how to make our database available for searching on our website…at least until we have full-text out there.

Are vertical files useful today? They can be — just ask the woman who came in a few weeks ago and found a photo of herself under “School Integration” in Winston-Salem. Should we strive to digitize and create full-text searching for our newspapers? Absolutely. Let’s begin by getting our collections out of storage, into finding aids and databases, and into the hands of researchers.