By Allan Gray, Director
The Northwest Regional Library System (NORWELD) in Bowling Green serves its 50 member libraries in a 25-county region through technology support, continuing education and a number of other special activities and projects.
One of these special projects began in late 2008 when twelve libraries from nine counties approached NORWELD about partnering with the State Library of Ohio and the Ohio Historical Society’s (OHS) Ohio Memory Project to implement a regional digitization project that would make a number of their fragile local history materials available to library patrons doing online research through the Internet. Items included journals, photographs, postcards, obituaries, programs, atlases, slides and high school yearbooks.
An LSTA application was submitted to the State Library of Ohio and the project was funded beginning in October 2009. The total budget for the project, including our local cash match, was $52,044. Each participating library’s local cash match was only $665.
The decision was made that members would determine their own priorities for scanning based on condition and use of their materials. The project had two different tracks. The first involved the purchase of a book scanner that was located at Findlay-Hancock County Public Library and operated by a technical assistant on behalf of those libraries requiring access to the larger scanner. The second track involved the participation of the members themselves in scanning smaller items at their own locations with the workstations, scan jets, hard drives, and DVD burners purchased as part of the project. Regardless of its origin, all of the digital data collected eventually ended up at the Ohio Historical Society where it was processed and Library of Congress subject headings added. The project followed OHS’s metadata structure which uses qualified Dublin Core.
In addition to a number of local news releases that were written to market the project to the general public, NORWELD created a three minute streaming video file that included interviews associated with the project. The purpose of the video was to introduce the project to the general public and was used by participating libraries on their local web sites. Versions of the file were also sent to five local television stations and to federal and state legislators from the region.
Through early January of this year, over 9,000 items were in the database and over 60,000 unique visitors had accessed the members’ web sites. These include some items that Harris-Elmore Public Library had submitted to OHS prior to the inception of the grant and over 60 World War II interviews produced by NORWELD as part of its Northwest Ohio Narratives Project.
The enthusiasm for the project throughout the region was widespread. Libraries have received a number of comments from community members and board members on the availability of these materials and the convenience of using the database. Participation in the project has provided local library staff with a greater awareness of their local collections.
NORWELD and its member libraries are grateful to the State Library of Ohio staff for their encouragement and support in the development and implementation of this project, and we must also thank the Ohio Memory Project staff for their local training and cataloging support.
Our members’ collective goal of enhancing access to some of the historical documents that make up such a large part of the fabric and culture of northwest Ohio was achieved.
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