If you want to know what is happening in the small town where I live in upstate NY, then you read the local weekly paper. It has been that way since the 1800′s. The papers in the nearby cities do not carry local information the residents here need. For things like gatherings, obituaries, wedding announcements, awards, &tc, residents of Sidney, NY (and the surrounding few towns) rely on the Tri-Town News.
Across the country this remains true in many areas, especially many rural areas. These papers are a valuable source of historical information and I fear that in many places, due to lack of education or funding, these resources are at risk of being lost.
So, about 6 months ago I started thinking and brainstorming a project that involved borrowing approximately 120 reels of microfilm from the local Historical Association to digitize and make available online and in our library. Not only would this project preserve the information in another format, it would also make it more accessible. And I think that access is the best form of preservation. The more people can access, view, and copy information, the longer life it will have.
It quickly became clear that this was not a project I could do in my spare time. There is too much information and even if I had all the required skills and knowledge to do it, I would not have the time without sacrificing too many of my other projects and responsibilities.
The First Steps
The first part of the process was the research. In December 2012 I began looking into companies and getting quotes for the project. I wanted to find a company that would scan, OCR, and index the newspapers. Since I wanted to eventually make it available online, I also got quotes from companies that offered different levels of support for that.
Once I had some numbers, I met with someone from the Historical Association to talk about the idea. I was invited to give a presentation there the following month. There was some heated debate from a few of their members who had concerns about letting the microfilm leave the building for the purposes of scanning. I answered questions and gave my opinion before backing off to let them talk about it for the next month. At their next meeting they agreed to the project with an unanimous vote.
Finding the Funds
Now that the Historical Association had agreed to the project, I started looking for ways to fund it. I applied for a $5000 O’Connor Foundation Matching Grant. In March they agreed to release the funds provided I find a $5000 match. By this time word had spread around to a few places in town and I got word that the Sidney Central Schools Alumni Association might be interested in donating towards the project. So, in early April I presented to their board, who approved to give $2500.00 towards the match. Then in mid-April the Friends of the Libraries agreed to give the other $2500.00 towards the project.
Advantage Preservation will be handling the project. They gave the best quote, will build and host a website where the papers will be easily searchable, and were generally the most pleasant to deal with. Additionally, they provided many examples of libraries who have used them and the quality of their work is impressive.
I shipped the first box of 30 reels of microfilm to them last week. Within a month or so that information will be on the website and I’ll be shipping out the next batch of reels.
Over the Long Term
The plan is to ship the reels for scanning in a couple of batches over the next few months. All of the ~120 reels will be completed in about a year or so. The Tri-Town now puts all of their papers online, which should make the process going forward much easier.
The papers included in the project are the Sidney Record, Sidney Enterprise, and the Tri-Town News. The Sidney Record began publishing a weekly paper in December 1882. The Sidney Enterprise ran concurrently with the Sidney Record from 1914 – 1958. In 1968 the Sidney Record folded in with the Bainbridge News to form the Tri-Town News, which remains the local paper of record today.
In the beginning I sat down and wrote out the major objectives of this project. This helped when I had to present to the Historical Association and Alumni Association. It also made the grant writing go more smoothly.
1. Increase the ways in which people are able to access historical information
a. Provide on-demand access to local papers in more than one location (Library, Historical Society, Website)
b. Liberate content that cannot always be physically accessed
i. Make content available for those who cannot visit Historical Society during the four hours per week they are open
ii. Make content available online for those who are no longer living in the area, are researching relatives from area, etc
c. Increase potential amount of users
i. Information accessible in different locations and mediums means more people can use it
d. Eliminate hybrid systems and confusion
i. Put all the content of the papers into one easily searchable and uniform format
e. Add classification and indexing systems for easier searching
i. Greatly reduce research time and make information more useful
2. Preserve the information stored by updating the storage devices
a. Content can be copied ad infinitum without degradation
b. Original microfilm handled less
i. Less of chance of damage or loss
c. Disaster back-up
i. Information stored in separate buildings and online to prevent total loss in case of flood, fire, etc
d. Create additional format to store information
i. Information spread across formats (microfilm, hard drive, website) saves data if one format becomes obsolete
3. Enhanced the services offered by the library
a. Resources can be used and searched in different ways
b. Increase productivity
c. Rebuild local history collection
4. Teaching Tool
a. Promote digital literacy
i. Using the new Public Computing Center the library can teach users through classes and one-on-one training how to research in new mediums (digital, website)
ii. Users will not just be learning how to find historical information; they will also learn valuable computer and searching skills in the process
I am becoming increasingly convinced that M. John Harrison’s Ambiente Hotel is the best blog around right now. It is full of succinct, poignant, lyrical writings of both fiction and reflection, the weird and the mundane. He eschews the current curated fashion of Tumblr/Twitter (not a bad fashion, but sometimes tiring) for something with a much different feel and writing style than exists on most blogs. You can’t skim the Ambiente Hotel; it takes time to read and digest. Though not necessarily strung together there is a distinct cumulative effect when given daily careful reading over weeks/months.
And the tools you develop operate only at the scale for which you develop them–though they have just enough sensitivity to alert you, as you push towards each outside edge, to the possiblility of the need for another, yet more subtle, toolset. -m. john harrison
I’ve already decided: when Google Reader shuts down, I won’t be finding an alternative for my 500 or so feeds. I’ll create some bookmarks of my favorite places on the Internet but so much of the stuff I filled Reader with over the last 5 or 6 years will not come back around. Google has given me an involuntary reboot of my Internet media consumption, a reboot that I needed but have been reluctant to implement.
This year is looking to be the most wide-open, blue-skied year of my life. Everything is new. I need that in my information consumption too.
I spend a lot of my time teaching basic technology workshops at my library. Many of the participants in these workshops have never had the opportunity to learn about computers or technology. For some, sitting down at one of our laptops may be the first time they have even touched a computer.
In my first workshop I always warn them away from frustration. Think of it, I say, like you’re learning a new language, which in many ways they are. This usually puts them at ease. When learning a new language there is never an expectation that the student start out at a certain level or with a basic understanding. If someone takes a beginning French class, no one is going to judge them for not knowing the meaning of merci. This starts to erase the stigma around technological illiteracy and relaxes the classroom. Things can progress (slowly!) from here.
However, there inevitably reaches a point where we get to the more abstract terms. Everyone has heard of the “cloud” but how can I explain it to someone with a very basic understanding of technology or the Internet? More importantly, how can I explain it without making them feel stupid? How can I explain it well?
My answer to those questions are as simple as they are obvious: First, with patience. Then, with repetition.
But sometimes it’s more complex than that. Here is where language comes back. Many of our terms – our metaphors – are so abstract that they are difficult to understand. Like the “cloud”. It’s a catchy term but it misses a lot and confuses our understanding. Emails are not floating around our atmosphere.
But confusing our understanding isn’t the most insidious thing that some of our metaphors do. Frank Chimero reminded me of this the other day. He says:
I think there’s a strong likelihood that metaphors like “The Cloud” and sayings like “It Just Works™” reduce a user’s appreciation of the software/hardware they are using. “Magic” is a great word for selling product, but it also can cheapen all the sweat it takes to get there. If the seams have been covered, you can’t admire how things connect.
Justin wrote a great blog post today musing on the future of Teen Services in libraries. He sees a model of good Teen Librarianship being teams of awesome people collaborating together. It can’t be a one-man show. How can libraries do this? He writes:
Investing: To me, that’s key. Surround yourself with the people you want to work with
Yes! This reminds me of something that Austin Kleon writes in the introduction to his book Steal Like An Artist (h/t Brainpickings). It is a concept that I have been thinking about over the course of last year – especially as I move around in my profession and have the chance to meet new and cool people. The concept is this:
There’s an economic theory out there that if you take the incomes of your five closest friends and average them, the resulting number will be pretty close to your own income.
I think the same thing is true of idea incomes. You’re only going to be as good as the stuff you surround yourself with.
Remember, this is true both online and off.
John Palfrey recently gave a short TEDx talk about his work with the DPLA. It’s a good introduction to the project and why it is needed.
More info at DPLA
Need a concrete example of how publishers are “inserting friction” in order to make it difficult for libraries to share eBooks? Just look at the price difference.
Full version of above picture from American Libraries Magazine (pdf)
Ursula K. Le Guin says this of “frictioned” eBooks in libraries:
If the part libraries play in distributing ebooks gets “frictioned” into insignificance, it will be easier for the corporations to take further control of what ebooks you personally can obtain, how long a book will stay on your reader before you have to pay for it again, and whatever else they want to control. If they see profit in doing any of this, they’ll do it. If small publishers try to sell the books they don’t sell, the big corporations will eliminate the small publishers.
We’d be wise to keep our information base as broad as possible, by supporting the existing public libraries in their heroic and amazingly successful effort to carry on their job in the electronic age.
The goal of the public library has been to give anyone who needs or wants it permanent, unlimited, free access to books. All books.
The goal of the public library in the electronic age is what it always was: to give permanent, unlimited, free access to books — print books, ebooks, all books — to everyone.
I’ve been participating in Daniel Russell’s (previously mentioned HERE) free Power Searching with Google course. It is a lot of fun. I’ve refreshed stuff I already knew and learned a few new tricks I didn’t. The third class and mid-term assessment went live this morning.
I just posted this on Facebook but thought I’d share it here too.
I found myself returning to this article over and over during the last two days. It’s a rather chilling yet perspicacious examination of the increasing bifurcation of our society into a rich upperclass and underprivileged lower class (or, as put in the article, “Perfect world travelers versus people who don’t have passports. The drone owners versus the drone targets. And, strangely, those who can move freely in physical space and those who can’t.”) and the extent in which tech can play a role.
The sci-fi author M John Harrison recently blogged about how the traditional rhetoric of disaster (think The Road) is worn out – those issues are no longer the important issues – and that there is some other kind of disaster ready to be written. I tend to think that this is it – the ability of technology to either democratize everyone or fuel the machinations of the powerful elite. In which case, access to, knowledge of, and education about technology may need to be thought of differently, maybe even as a “human right.”