25
Nov
09

Preservation and digitization for all

First off, a few words of gratitude in this season of thanks-giving. I am thankful for my job, where I learn every day about public service, local history, and get to use my skills as an archivist. I am grateful that our county finally decided to upgrade our outdated county website (including the public library) to CSS, and that it will be coming out in early 2010. Finally, I am grateful for the grants my department has received, most recently the NC SHRAB’s Traveling Archivist Program.

Speaking of grants, my library (in partnership with Wake Forest University) recently received an outreach grant from the State Library that provides digitization equipment and preservation training in locations throughout our county. This grant is unique to North Carolina and is being watched carefully by the State Library due to its somewhat unusual concept. Put simply, we are putting expensive scanners “out there” for the general public and providing preservation education for nonprofit groups and individuals.

This Saturday was our first workshop, which was focused on local nonprofit organizations. From genealogy clubs to food banks, churches to social clubs, we sent emails and postcards to as many groups as we could find. Our workshop’s limited RSVP list was filled within a week, and I began hearing from groups that I know I had not yet invited! We are having three more rounds of workshops in 2010.

On Saturday, we brought in Rachel Hoff, preservation expert from UNC Chapel Hill, as well as Barry Davis, multimedia coordinator at Wake Forest, to teach our community partners about preservation, repair, and digitization of their organization’s archives. The enthusiasm of our participants was absolutely contagious. Not only were they fully engaged from 10 am to 5 pm, but they were thrilled to learn about book repair, archival housing, and the steps to use our VHS-to-digital, cassette-to-digital, slide scanner, and flatbed scanner!

We need to get all of the public library staff involved with the equipment to the point where they are comfortable showing a customer how to use the scanners. At a small public library branch with a few full-time staff, it is hard enough to get the staff trained on the equipment, let alone ask them to spend time with a customer who is just getting started! So we’ve decided to expand our training on the digitization equipment to become part of our regular computer training classes, allowing for small seminars.

While it sounds simple, the grant is compelling in its implications. This equipment will be open to the public. There are no restrictions as to what can be digitized, and no requirements that digital objects be shared with our libraries or hosted on a designated server. It is empowering for community-based archives to be provided with training and resources to preserve their history their way. I will post more in the future as our project develops.

In related news: the NC Digital Heritage Center is coming…!

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