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.

A group of 14 public librarians gathered at the Boston Public Library on April 16, 2014 for the Public Librarian Partnership Program (PLPP). This is the first of three workshops offered by the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) to work directly with public librarians across the state to produce an exhibit of national interest from the wealth of material in the various archives . The goal is to have a total of 45 librarians attend these one day workshops by August 2014.

World War I Poster - Victory Girls
World War I Poster – Victory Girls, Springfield College Archives and Special Collections



Presenters from the Boston Public Library for the April workshop were Anna Fahey-Flynn (Collaborative Library Services Manager), Danny Pucci (Lead Digital Projects Librarian)  and Nichole (Metadata Mob member). Representing the Digital Public Library of  America (DPLA)  were Amy Ruddersdorf (Assistant Director for Content) and Franky Abbott (Project Manager). Information was provided in a well  organized, empowering and collaborative way and throughout the workshop we were reminded of the network and assistance  available through BPL and the network that is being created.

Davis & Furber Textile Machinery
Davis & Furber Textile Machinery, Lawrence Public Library Collection




Initially, there was an overview of the PLPP and how the various agencies – DPLA, BPL and Digital Commonwealth — work together cooperatively. Material was presented on evaluating an institution’s collection for material that has local significance but will interest a national and international audience. Issues such as raising awareness on copyright and urging the use of Creative Commons were discussed along with creating metadata and making use of help available through the Metadata Mob at the BPL. Some interesting themes emerged as possible exhibit topics: fires, floods, or other disasters; Civil War and World War I; shoe, textile, and  optical industries – many, many possibilities! The participants were excited with the seemingly endless number of possibilities and discussed the various aspects of potential collaborations.


The tour of the BPL Digital Imaging Lab, the Internet Archive, and the Metadata Mob office was excellent as it was an opportunity to finally meet all these great folks that have made the digitization of so many new collections by Digital Commonwealth members possible and who have guided all these collaborative projects through the various processes. And at the end there was an opportunity to visit the Dear Boston exhibit! Kudos to the curators!

For a schedule of the workshops and registration information visit this blog post:

More details about the PLPP is available in this DPLA blog by Franky Abbott:

Submitted by Margaret Morrissey
Library Director
Jacob Edwards Library

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: (

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.

Congratulations to the Digital Commonwealth Movers & Shakers of 2014 just announced by Library Journal ( Featured in the new selection of stellar talent are two local librarians who have had a long and significant involvement with Digital Commonwealth: current board member Tom Blake as well as retired board member and past president Kristi Chadwick.

Tom is recognized for his leadership in pursuing a partnership between the BPL and Digital Commonwealth that was part of an organizing effort to attain a LSTA digitization grant in 2011. The successful grant  was funded for $200,000 for a two-year project to digitize historical materials for members of the Digital Commonwealth. As the entry about Tom explains, “So far, Blake and his team have digitized more than 75,000 objects from 100 institutions, and the DC has grown to 200 members, from large academic libraries to small independent museums. The collections, now in beta, will soon be available via the DC portal and repository system.”

Tom is also credited for helping establish the strong relationship that has transpired between the BPL, the Digital Commonwealth, and the Digital Public Library of America who chose Digital Commonwealth as one of its initial service hubs.  For more about that experience, check out Tom’s recent blog post: Life as a Service Hub for the Digital Public Library of America.

And if that were not honor enough, Kristi Chadwick is also included in this year’s selection. Kristi is awarded for her work as the Director of the Emily Williston Memorial Library & Museum in Easthampton where she achieved tremendous strides in increased staff appreciation and public support for the library in the short amount of time she has worked there.

Certainly many remember Kristi for her long association with Digital Commonwealth  that included several years serving on the board of directors and a year as president in 2011 and 2012.

Our appreciation goes out to these two for all they have done for librarianship in Massachusetts and particularly for the efforts they have committed to the success of Digital Commonwealth. A well-deserved thank you and congratulations!

The following is a guest post from Molly Stothert-Maurer from the Perkins School of the Blind who attended the recent DPLA gathering at the BPL and provided this report:


On October 24-25, 2013 Northeastern University, Simmons College, and the Boston Public Library hosted the first annual DPLAfest, in honor of the successful launch in April 2013 of the new Digital Public Library of America.


One of the great take-home messages from the event is the clever analogy drawn between the pooling of the United States’ digital assets into the DPLA via content and service hubs, as a water ecosystem whereby small libraries, archives, historical societies, and other communities (ponds) contribute their assets to state consortia and other larger networks like the Digital Commonwealth (lake) which are subsequently harvested by the DPLA (the ocean). This model allows the DPLA to ingest assets with great efficiency by culling large, standardized data sets with metadata that can be easily mapped, allowing for a streamlined and efficient process that keeps the DPLA slim and trim (think few employees and sustainable finances) for the benefit of users worldwide- and the benefits are many. For small institutions: the power of having assets searchable equitably alongside major institutions on an attractive and user-friendly portal , with a rapidly expanding toolbox of custom apps, widgets and other “hacks” thanks to the DPLA’s open API (public docks?)- is a true rainfall for us all (pun intended). Furthermore, the DPLA is committed to sending web traffic back to individual institutions, and building support through community programs. This is evidenced by one of their credos: “Plan Nationally, Scan Locally”.

For more information about the DPLAfest check out their Recordings and Notes page.

7th Annual Digital Library Conference

May 1, 2013, 8:30 am to 4:00 pm, at the Devens Commons Center,
31 Andrews Parkway, Devens, Massachusetts.

Registration Fees:

Digital Commonwealth Members: $95
Students: $95
Non-Members: $110
Advanced Registration Deadline: April 20, 2013

Register Today!

For full schedule and program descriptions, view this PDF document

9:45 – 10:45        First Keynote

The Digital Public Library of America: Interconnection and Advocacy on a National Scale

Amy Rudersdorf, Assistant Director for Content, Digital Public Library of America

When DPLA launches in April 2013, it will become a central repository for a vast array of data about digitized and born-digital collections from all over the United States, from public to academic to special libraries (think Digital Commonwealth) and national collections (the Smithsonian and the National Archives, for two). Access to the data will be available centrally through a DPLA portal, but also as an open API, enabling anyone, anywhere to develop apps, services, and tools to answer their personal or organizational needs. Keeping the data open in the “cloud” so it can be used by the “crowd” means that librarians in New York and Texas can use it one way, historians in Florida and Alaska another, and maybe even schoolchildren in Australia still another.This talk will provide an introduction to DPLA and its mission and goals, update our Digital Commonwealth partners on our progress, and make a case for opening up our nation’s library, archives, and museum data to the world.

12:00– 1:30       Lunch and Second Keynote

Share and Tell: Digital Stewardship and Digital Storytelling

Butch Lazorchak, Digital Archivist, Library of Congress

Libraries, archives and museums provide the “building blocks” for lifelong learning. Organizations like Digital Commonwealth provide the technical infrastructure to ensure that these digital building blocks are stored, described, made accessible and preserved over time.

The stewardship of digital information is an incredibly valuable service that requires technical expertise and diligence along with significant resources, both human and monetary. But while our community’s expertise in format obsolescence, ingest mechanisms and administrative metadata helps to ensure that the digital materials under our care are technically protected, it doesn’t ensure that people outside our community understand the work we do and its value.

That’s why, more than ever, we need to remember that we’re in the storytelling business.

Storytelling is a way for us to talk passionately about the resources under our care and to build the emotional case that the work we do has value. These are not fairytales; many of the stories we tell don’t necessarily have happy endings. But the resources we steward are the building blocks for our patron’s stories and help people understand their place in history, the economy and the world.

There are so many exciting advances in technology that affect the work we do. We’ll take a quick survey of some interesting things (crowdfunding for government; citizen archivists; personal digital archiving; digital mapping) and try to get to the essence of why they’re important to our profession and our patrons and explore how we can leverage them to tell stories about the incredible value we have in our digital commonwealth.

All the latest news from the Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

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Updates for January, 2013

This Issue highlights three reports about repository projects involving Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library

Digital Commonwealth announces the release of its new Omeka repository system

Last week Digital Commonwealth released its new open-source Omeka repository system as a temporary replacement for its aging Portal. Now when you navigate to you access our new Omeka installation. 

This is considered an interim step while the BPL completes development of the system that will ultimately replace both the Portal and DSpace repository. In the mean time, Omeka will enable Digital Commonwealth to continue providing active member services, such as continuing to harvest metadata and ingest images from new collections. 

The new site, which includes a WordPress blog, also allows Digital Commonwealth to better update and disseminate information about our activities. In fact, you can read more about the new Omeka site in this recent blog post.

Development Team Report from the BPL: a technical overview of the new Fedora Repository

 Two new programmer hires at the BPL are working full time on the creation of an open- source repository system that will become the future home of Digital Commonwealth. Their report provides a technical overview of the project with some explanation of the Fedora platform being used and its other components such as Hydra and Blacklight.

A limited release is scheduled for mid-April to coincide with the initial public release of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and the upcoming Digital Commonwealth annual conference. The full report is available in the Omeka blog.

Celebration planned at the BPL for the public release of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

A two-day series of events is planned at the BPL in mid-April for the initial public release of the DPLA. Highlights in this release will include selections from Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library digital image collections. More information about this event is available here.

Date and Place change for Annual Conference:

May 1, 2013 @ Devens Commons Center

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the Digital Commonwealth has been forced to move the conference to Wednesday, May 1 at the Devens Commons Center in Devens, Massachusetts.  Planning is well underway. We hope to announce our keynote speakers soon. Among the sessions being developed are ones on metadata, dealing with vendors, social media, continuing education opportunities for digital curation, and a series of short presentations highlighting some of the projects the Boston Public Library has digitized under the LSTA grant they’ve been administering.

 Special Shout-Out to The Curious Genealogist Blog

Don’t forget to keep in touch with the continuing LSTA/MBLC scanning grant projects at the BPL by reading their blog updates!

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On April 18 and 19, 2013, the Boston Public Library will host an event at which the Digital Public Library of America will be formally launched.

The underlying system of the DPLA will both aggregate and re-expose metadata drawn from a variety of regional digital library systems. These regional systems will include the initial network of Content and Service Hubs of which Digital Commonwealth has been included. Digital Commonwealth was selected as a pilot DPLA Hub because of the richness and diversity of its content as well as its ability to help members leverage the resources at the Boston Public Library for local digitization projects. As a result of this partnership, descriptive metadata currently searchable and harvestable via Digital Commonwealth systems will also become searchable and harvestable via the DPLA web interface and API. Students, researchers, digital humanists, and applications developers from around the world will now have, at their fingertips, valuable metadata describing digitized cultural heritage materials from Massachusetts, the United States, and beyond. We look forward to the creative and innovative lesson plans, research projects, and learning tools that this consolidated online resource will inspire now and into the future.

At the launch event, Digital Commonwealth will unveil an online exhibition based on the Sports Temples exhibit currently on display at the BPL in Copley Square. The online exhibition will be one of several examples of what will be possible once digital content is made available through the DPLA. Digital Commonwealth has been asked to provide some representative samples of images and corresponding descriptive metadata to be put on display in a variety of formats during the event. Please contact Tom Blake ( if you would like any of your materials to be included in this event, and for further details on how to participate.

All the latest news from the Digital Commonwealth of Massachusetts!

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Updates for November, 2012

Digital Commonwealth chosen as “Service Hub” for Digital Public Library of America

The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) is working to establish the first truly national digital library of the United States. As an initial stage toward accumulating content for its collection, the DPLA has chosen seven regional or state digital repositories as “Service Hubs” from which the DPLA will harvest content. We are proud to announce that the Digital Commonwealth was chosen as one of those Hubs. For information about the DPLA and the Hubs Pilot program, view this announcement on the DPLA website. The page also includes a video presentation by Emily Gore, the DPLA’s first paid staff member.

MIT Communications Forum features Robert Darnton speaking about the DPLA
On November 1, 2012, Robert Darnton, Director of Harvard Libraries, spoke about the vision of the Digital Public Library of America at an MIT symposium “Digitizing the Culture of Print: The Digital Public Library of America and Other Urgent Projects.” Also included on the panel were Ann Wolpert, Director of MIT Libraries, and Susan Flannery, Director of Libraries for the city of Cambridge.

Dr. Darnton serves on the steering committee of the DPLA. As a distinguished scholar of 18th century American and French history, Darnton spoke about the motivation of the DPLA project to extend the democratization of access to knowledge by freely offering not just the choicest publications from imminent research collections but also digitized historical primary source materials.

Emphasizing the democratic nature of the DPLA enterprise, Darnton stressed the motivation to reach and involve people at the grassroots level. He even envisioned the DPLA organizing mobile scan labs he called “scannebagoes” that would go out and help people digitize stuff from their attics. Perhaps that is a bit far fetched, to think of pulling a scanning van in front of someone’s house, but it certainly isn’t fanciful to think of providing personalized services to small community libraries and historical societies. This is indeed a vision shared by the Digital Commonwealth as we partner with the BPL and now the DPLA to broaden access to the rich cultural heritage of Massachusetts too often hidden in small community collections and work toward sharing that historical record with the world.

The DPLA, Darnton explained, now has a staff of eight at the Berkman Center at Harvard plus over a thousand volunteers around the country working toward creating a nonprofit organizational structure. Currently they are actively seeking a director and the best place for their headquarters.

To view Darnton’s presentation along with Wolpert’s and Flannery’s, the complete video has been made available by MIT.

Digital Commonwealth partnership with the Boston Public Library

One year ago the Digital Commonwealth and the Boston Public Library signed a letter of agreement to work together toward creating new state-wide digital services and repository system that would greatly expand and improve the existing Digital Commonwealth structure. So far this partnership has resulted in a second year of free digital scanning services provided by the BPL and funded by generous grants from the MBLC along with a series of free training workshops organized by the Digital Commonwealth. Our DPLA involvement is yet another result of this lucrative partnership. And next year, the BPL will release a new repository system to replace the aging system that the Digital Commonwealth has been using for the past six years.

We will provide updates and details about the new system being developed by the BPL in future newsletter installments. Meanwhile, please read more details about the Digital Commonwealth/BPL partnership available here.

Free Workshop in the Berkshires
Digital Commonwealth is offering another free workshop  on managing digital projects, this time  in the Berkshires at Sage-Bushnell Library in Sheffield on December 13, 2012. There are still plenty of seats available!!

Also in December, seats are still available for the free workshop at Snow Library in Orleans on Cape Cod taking place on Thursday, December 6, 2012.

Both of these workshops are available for FREE to all Digital Commonwealth members, thanks to the generous grant provided by the MBLC to the Digital Commonwealth and Boston Public Library. For more information and registration please view the workshop information web page.

Save the Date for the 2013 Annual Digital Commonwealth Conference
The date has been set for the next annual Digital Commonwealth Conference to be held on Thursday, April 25, at the Cambridge Hyatt Regency. Once again the Digital Commonwealth will be holding its conference in collaboration with the Massachusetts Library Association’s annual conference. We hope to see you there!

Member Votes still  needed to ratify Bylaws revision:

Because the Digital Commonwealth incorporated this year as a nonprofit in Massachusetts, we revised our Bylaws to better suite the requirements of our new status. Three-quarters of the membership must approve the revisions before they can be officially filed with the state. If you haven’t submitted a ballot as yet, please do so as soon as possible. We need your vote!!

Digital Commonwealth is on Facebook!
Check out the many highlights available from Digital Commonwealth collections posted on our Facebook page! Look for us there and ‘like’ us!