Archive for October, 2009


NCLA Part 3: Statewide public library, statewide digital heritage?

At NCLA, everyone was buzzing about the possibility of a statewide public library…and, separately, the possibility of a statewide digital heritage center.

While UNC Chapel Hill has been relatively quiet about the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center (see previous post), there certainly were special collections librarians and archivists at NCLA who were curious to know more about how such a program might work. They will likely have a Program Coordinator early next year. With the NC ECHO statewide survey of cultural heritage institutions and the NC SHRAB’s Traveling Archivist going out to community groups to consult on preservation, the NC DHC stands as the next big effort to democratize efforts to make accessible the heritage of North Carolina.

En route to Greenville, one of my colleagues mentioned a recent meetup at a “Library Cooperation Summit” to discuss the potential for statewide collaboration to increase public access to state resources. One major idea that emerged from the summit: a statewide ILS using open-source software such as Evergreen. On Thursday, David Singleton, Director of Library Experiences at the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County, discussed his experience with Evergreen in the state of Georgia, where the software originated to support the PINES project. Users of PINES can check out materials at any participating library across the state and return the materials to any other library across the state, using the same library card. Studies showed 90-95% user satisfaction with the open-source ILS. As for North Carolina, the State Library representative in the audience was a bit hesitant to respond that they hope to have a statewide system in place by late 2010.


NCLA Part 2: Twenty-first century reading rooms

On Thursday, the Round Table on Special Collections presented a panel entitled “21st Century Reading Rooms: Interacting with Special Collections Online.” The panel included Mark Custer from ECU, Nick Graham from UNC Chapel Hill, and Kevin Gilbertson from WFU. Although Kevin was unable to present due to illness, the other two gave fantastic presentations about digital collections online.

Nick Graham, North Carolina Maps Project Librarian at the Carolina Digital Library & Archives at UNC Chapel Hill, discussed interactive GIS applications on NC Maps. He explored points, polygons, and georeferencing. Points are latitude and longitude, expressed in decimal degrees. If you can see a point on a map, you can see it in context among other locations — such as Historic Des Moines‘ pushpins feature that shows where historic photos were taken. Polygons are, essentially, shapes. At least three points encompassing a shape can be used to search without text — instead, users can create bounding boxes (or other shapes) to view particular areas. Nick mentioned the Kentucky Geography Network as an advanced version of what NC Maps aims to do, which is better demonstrated through the UNLV’s Interactive Spatial Image page, which “searches by spatial coverage.” And finally, georeferencing is matching up points on a given map to the same points on another map. With historic maps, this is groundbreaking — users can now take a historic map and put it over a modern map to compare development, ecology, land ownership, etc. NC Maps has already started doing georeferencing. Overall, the goal for NC Maps is for interactivity, accessability, and usability by the public.

Mark Custer, Markup & Text Coordinator for Joyner Library Digital Collections at ECU,  discussed the Daily Reflector Image Collection, which has over 7000 images from Greenville’s local newspaper. Mark’s focus was on identifying ways that the collection has been shared with the public. His argument: seek out familiar places and hosting — don’t create new (and therefore unfamiliar) frameworks. The Daily Reflector images are available through ECU’s Digital Collections portal, through the Daily Reflector newspaper’s website, as well as on Flickr. Mark described the ease of extracting metadata from their images and batch uploading to Flickr. Of the 200 photographs uploaded to Flickr, the images have been seen by over 800 people — without advertising of any kind. Over 550 comments have been made to Daily Reflector digital images.

Overall, both presentations highlighted new developments in interactive special collections, aka digital collections. Perhaps the ECU Digital Collections portal could be explored in greater detail for its usability (I explore it in some depth for the upcoming issue of the Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists). A number of librarians/archivists in the audience were interested in the ways these resources are discovered, particularly ways repositories can share their resources. The NC Digital Heritage Center came up in a question, though there was little information available about how the Center will work to create greater access to widespread resources. These are exciting times to be a special collections librarian…


NCLA Part 1: Politician papers and the new North Carolina Gazetteer

I am back in Winston-Salem, pleasantly surprised by my first experience with a state library conference: NCLA. I was warned that registrations were lower than ever, and while attendance was indeed low, I found that some sessions were more seminars than panels (which is always a better learning environment for me).

I attended the Government Resources Section’s session on politician papers in libraries, with Betty Carter from UNCG and Tim West of UNC Chapel Hill.

UNCG was given permission to acquire the papers of Senator Kay Hagan, and also has the papers of Congressman Howard Coble. While their collection’s strengths lie primarily with performing arts and early 20th century authors, UNCG’s University Archives and Manuscripts department also has political papers. Betty Carter mentioned two important things to consider when acquiring political papers: size and research potential. She also mentioned the usefulness of SAA’s publication entitled Managing Congressional Collections.

 Tim West from the Southern Historical Collection represents a large special collections repository. He mentioned the importance of obtaining special funding for a processing archivist, which the SHC has done successfully by asking for funding from donors. Research value (through archival appraisal) for historians, journalists, community activists, undergraduates, relatives, and constituents is of utmost importance to the SHC. Mr. West mentioned the importance of collecting from individuals and groups of “exceptional impact” such as officeholders who have been influential outside of political activity, people involved in politics who did not hold public office, political journalists, and more.

During the ensuing discussion, the panelists agreed that there is a need for a statewide documentation strategy for political papers. I am concerned with the role of academic special collections departments in making available political papers to the public. Academic libraries focus on students and faculty. What role do public libraries play in this? We recently de-accessioned and donated to the State Archives the papers of a local state representative because we felt they would be researched more frequently there. I had not thought that academic libraries with ties to political figures might also collect these types of work — what about the State Archives as a repository for government documents? Perhaps election materials and personal papers do not fall within their collection development policy? Also, what about elecronic records? Neither have, so far, begun collecting born-digital resources.

Another issue that became highlighted during the panel: the majority of those participating were government documents librarians, most of whom had never dealt with manuscripts. It was interesting to watch librarians and archivists discuss archival concepts — and it made me realize how much further we have to go to understand each other and our methods in dealing with “records.”

Later that afternoon, I helped introduce Michael Hill, supervisor of the Research Division of the NC Office of Archives & History and also coordinator of the North Carolina State Highway Historical Marker Program. His presentation on editing William Powell’s North Carolina Gazetteer was engaging and amusing, exploring some of the origins of unique place names in the state (i.e. Asey Hole, Pig Basket Creek, Whynot). I am really looking forward to the book, which should come out sometime next year and will undoubtedly become another reference must-have.