By Harold Smith

If you work at a public library, especially if you work at a small library where opportunities for collaboration are rare and money for new projects is even rarer, then you should read about this opportunity that is now available. Here’s the deal in a nutshell. If you have an unprocessed collection, even if you aren’t sure of their importance, you can arrange for someone to come to your library to assess the collection and to walk you through the entire process of project design, digitization, metadata creation, rights management, and putting the collection online. If you have never done anything like this before, they will help you learn. If you have done similar work but are simply strapped for time or money, they can take a lot of the work off your hands and they can do it with grant money instead of your money. All they ask in return is that you share what you digitize. That doesn’t mean you lose your collection or even that you lose the right to host the digital collection if you want, it just means that the metadata and a thumbnail image will be used to link your content with the content from other collections. This expands the reach of your collection and helps get your library more attention, but this aggregation of data also helps develop new opportunities for research. It’s a great opportunity to honor that donor who gave items not so that they could gather dust in your basement, but so that they could be used and shared in meaningful ways. It also is an opportunity to improve your digitization skills without taking on an entire project by yourself. I attended a workshop about this at the Jones Public Library in Amherst on June 18th, and I left feeling really excited about the whole idea. Like I said, it’s a sweet deal.

Bringing in wood, Chesterfield, Mass. from the Jones
Bringing in wood, Chesterfield, Mass. One of the treasures from the Clifton Johnson Collection, 1880-1940 at the Jones Library Special Collections.

How is this possible? The Public Library Partnership Project is funded through the Digital Public Library of America by the Gates Foundation. Four states are involved and in each state there is a digital library partner to provide training. In Massachusetts, this assistance is provided by the Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library. If you decide to get involved these are the folks who will come and work with you. It’s not like working with a vendor who will come and scan your collection only to leave you with a bunch of questions and a confusing list of file names. The goal here is different. The goal is to make it as easy as possible for you, and to create a sense of perpetual engagement so that there is a process in place for continued sharing. One example of that ongoing relationship is the goal of working with public libraries to create exhibitions from the newly ingested content. The exhibitions would be built in part with your content, as well as with your knowledge of the community that is sharing the content, and they would be hosted by the Digital Public Library of America, whose site has had more than one million unique visitors. To make participation in these exhibitions easier, additional training will also be available about how to put a collection together, about writing for the web, and for learning to use Omeka when putting exhibitions together. The DPLA exhibits would share your content on equal footing with content from other, often larger organizations, and it would make it part of a national narrative. After participating in that process, you could then take those same skills to build a local exhibit designed specifically for your own community. It would be a great way to keep the new skills sharp and to give back to the local community that shared the content and has a deeper connection to it.

To learn more about this opportunity, please consider filling out the very simple form that will get the ball rolling.  You can find it on the Digital Commonwealth site.  If your public library is not a member of the Digital Commonwealth, joining is a great option, but don’t abandon the idea of participating in the digitization project if you are not members. Like public radio, support is important and encouraged, but no one is turned away. To do so would undercut the whole idea behind such projects. Worst case scenario, you end up chatting with someone at the Boston Public Library about the interesting stuff at your library and the possibility of finally getting it processed and out where it can be accessed. And, if while filling out the form you realize you aren’t even sure how to answer the questions, remember that putting “I don’t know” is a perfectly fine and honest response. Someone will get back to you and will help you along; that’s what is so great about this project.

If you’re interested in this opportunity, you should attend the next and final workshop in the series at SAILS Inc., Lakeville, MA on July 16 from 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM.

Digital Commonwealth will be hosting 3 upcoming workshops to prepare public libraries to contribute content to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) as part of a Public Librarian Partnership Grant recently awarded to DPLA by the Gates Foundation.

Bread and Roses Strike
Bread and Roses Strike of 1912, Lawrence History Center

In these workshops, public librarians will learn how to work with Digital Commonwealth to select content for digitization and/or identify existing digital content, digitize new content and provide metadata and contextualization for that content, and determine potential themes for DPLA, such as this exhibit concerning the Bread & Roses Strike in Lawrence: (http://dp.la/exhibitions/exhibits/show/breadandroses)

The workshop dates have been scheduled:

Wednesday, April 16, 9:30am – 4:30pm at Boston Public Library (Application deadline is April 9, 2014, 5pm)
Wednesday, June 18, 9:30am – 4:30pm at Jones Public Library, Amherst, MA
Wednesday, July 16, 9:30am – 4:30pm at SAILS Inc., Lakeville, MA

The ideal candidates for these workshops will be public librarians who deal with local history, genealogy and similar unique content. If interested, registration is now available.

Digital Commonwealth board members Kim Cochrane and Deb Dejonker-Berry teamed up to present “Connect to the Community: Using Digital Commonwealth Collections to Develop Lesson Plans” at the MSLA conference on March 10, 2014 in Hyannis, Massachusetts:   http://maschoolibraries.org/content/view/1195/791/

The Massachusetts School Library Association annual conference is attended by school librarians and educators, and also graduate students in these fields.  Deb Dejonker-Berry, Director of the Eastham Public Library, gave an overview to Digital Commonwealth.  Kim Cochrane, Curriculum Librarian and Coordinator of Curriculum and Instructional Technology at Framingham State University, spoke about how school librarians and educators can use the online content available from Digital Commonwealth’s portal and repository, as well as some other websites, within the classroom.  Kim used some of the existing lesson plans developed with Digital Commonwealth’s content as examples: http://members.digitalcommonwealth.org/lesson-plans

Kim and Deb noticed that the session generated many positive responses!  Many attendees stated that they planned to use Digital Commonwealth’s website. Also some indicated they would explore opportunities to interact with their local cultural organizations that either are, or could be, Digital Commonwealth members and encourage these organizations to make digital content available via the new repository.

On Monday, June 24, 2013, Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts held a free half-day workshop focusing on developing lesson plans featuring digital content.  The workshop was held at the Whittemore Library, Framingham State University, and was attended by school library media specialists, new teachers, and professionals from cultural organizations interested in making (and using) digital content for educational purposes.

The workshop included an introduction to Digital Commonwealth the organization (a collaborative initiative promoting digital content of Massachusetts cultural institutions), the existing Digital Commonwealth portal and repository (an online discovery and storage platform), screenshots of the upcoming new system (currently in development by the Boston Public Library, a partner organization to Digital Commonwealth), and examples of existing lesson plans using digital content.

Attendees responded favorably to the variety of digital content available via the metadata within the existing portal which includes links to video clips from WGBH’s Open Vault;  images of historical broadsides from the State Library of Massachusetts; and audio files and photographic images from NOBLE’s Digital Heritage.  Marianne Brown, a new teacher, talked about how she developed a lesson plan featuring photographs from the Watertown Free Public Library (digital images of these photographs are stored in the current Digital Commonwealth repository).  Marianne’s lesson plan is available as a PDF on Digital Commonwealth’s lesson plan page:  http://digitalcommonwealth.org/lesson_plans

Kim Cochrane, Curriculum Librarian, Framingham State University, and Nancy Heywood, Digital Projects Coordinator, Massachusetts Historical Society, led the workshop.  Both Kim and Nancy serve on Digital Commonwealth’s Outreach Committee and will review and revise the program. They hope to schedule two more workshops later this year.  For information and notification about future workshops, email Nancy Heywood: nheywood@masshist.org.

Are you a teacher (4th grade to 12th grade) who is interested in developing lesson plans featuring digital content?  Could you benefit from a half-day workshop focused on learning about digital collections and ideas about how to use digitized primary source materials within the classroom?  Please consider attending a free workshop on June 24th!  The workshop will be held in the Room UM (Upper Mezzanine) 16, Whittemore Library, Framingham State University, State Street, Framingham, from 9:00 AM until 1:30 PM on Monday, June 24, 2013.

Although individual teachers are certainly welcome, this workshop is an excellent place for team teachers or grade-level teams to hear about a statewide initiative presenting digital content from cultural institutions in Massachusetts, learn about some existing lesson plans,  and get some advice about how to prepare new plans featuring digital content.  The workshop will also include some hands-on time when attendees will start developing something to use in their classrooms!

To register: http://members.digitalcommonwealth.org/events

For information and notification about future workshops, email Nancy Heywood: nheywood@masshist.org.

During 2012, Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts offered 8 digitization training sessions for staff from libraries, archives, and cultural institutions who were interested in issues relating to the creation and enhancement of digital collections.   Thanks to grant funding, no registration fees were charged to attendees!

A recent LSTA grant awarded to the Boston Public Library (BPL) by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) allowed the Digital Commonwealth to work with staff of the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) on the training sessions.   The topics covered in the sessions included digital project planning, selecting and preparing materials for digitization, and file format and metadata issues.   The same basic program was given 8 different times, at 7 locations all over the state as well as one online webinar.

Each training session included an afternoon discussion period in which representatives from Digital Commonwealth spoke about the statewide collaborative effort to promote the creation and discoverability of digital collections of Massachusetts cultural institutions and representatives from the BPL spoke about the current grant-funded opportunity for Digital Commonwealth members to have some collections digitized by the BPL Digital Services team.  (The same LSTA grant from the MBLC covers the digitization services and the training sessions.)

Donia Conn, Education and Outreach Coordinator, NEDCC, led the training sessions.  Although a large number of attendees were from public libraries in Massachusetts, staff from special libraries, historical organizations, museums, academic libraries, local municipalities, state or federal agencies, and various archives were also in attendance at the training sessions.

The Digital Commonwealth is grateful to the following seven organizations for hosting a training session:  Massachusetts Library System office, Marlborough; SAILS, Middleborough;  Massachusetts Library Systems office, Whately;  UMass Boston’s electronic classroom in the State Archives Building in Boston;  NEDCC (Northeast Document Conservation Center) in Andover; Snow Library, Orleans;  Bushnell Sage Library, Sheffield.  (One other training session was an online webinar, coordinated by the staff of the NEDCC.)

The main goal of 2012 training sessions was to provide an overview to digitization issues.  Responses from participants indicate there is interest in additional trainings sessions, especially future training or work parties focused on metadata. Participants also suggested some other possible topics for future training sessions:  digitization best practices; funding models for digitization; or nuts and bolts of imaging and image processing.

What topics would you like to see covered by future training sessions? Please leave comments below.

Digital Commonwealth presents free training workshop at Snow Library in Orleans, Thursday, December 6, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Are you looking to digitize a collection, but don’t know where to start? Do you have questions about selection, metadata, and delivering content online? Would you like to work through these issues with experts and discuss these and other digitization topics with colleagues?

The Digital Commonwealth, a statewide collaboration for digital projects, is pleased to announce a workshop to current members and potential members looking to start or enhance their digital collections. The topics covered in the sessions will include: digital project planning, selecting and preparing materials for digitization, and file format and metadata issues, along with opportunities for discussions about projects and Digital Commonwealth.  The program will be presented by Donia Conn, Education and Outreach Coordinator of the NEDCC, on behalf of the Digital Commonwealth.

You can register for this session today at through our online registration system.

Participating in a training session will facilitate the steps required of current Digital Commonwealth member institutions interested in receiving free digitization services (grant funding permitting) from the Boston Public Library.

Please pass this message to any cultural institutions in your area such as: Historical Society, Museum, and Town Clerk who may also be interested.

These training sessions are supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

Vivien Goldman is the contact person for this workshop. She can be reached at viviengoldman@comcast.net