Submitting Organization: John G. Snowden Memorial Library Lycoming College

Idea Title: Coming of Age in the Digital Era

Idea Statement of Purpose: To hold a national summit (symposium) on “Coming of Age in the Digital Era” to try to solve the problems of sustainability for digital collections.

Describe the problem, need, issue or challenge that will be addressed and how addressing it will benefit the LYRASIS community. Include, if relevant, references to any studies or reports that can further elucidate the issue, models from other fields, or existing work in related areas.

The library, archives, and museum fields have been collaborating on the digitization of their collection materials since the 1990s. Many organizations around the country, especially small or mid-sized institutions, find themselves with successful community projects that are now beginning to show their age. The initial impetus of funding streams for digitizing new objects has dried up, and interest on the part of administration has moved on, but community passion and fascination for the materials may still be alive and well. With the addition of community archive projects run by volunteers and small organizations popping up now, how do we plan for the future? How can digital projects be revived, revisited, or rolled into a more sustainable digital program model after a decade or more?

Last year, our institution applied to the Catalyst Fund. We proposed that we could use the Lycoming County Women’s History Collection as the “model” project to represent aging mid-sized, collaborative digital projects nationwide to see what we could learn and to provide innovative, solutions to share with the field.

The Lycoming County Women’s History Collection (LCWHC) project is a cooperative effort of four local institutions: Lycoming College Snowden Library (private college, and fiscal agent for the LCWHC), the James V. Brown Library (public library), the Lycoming County Historical Society (not-for-profit museum, library, and archives), and Pennsylvania College of Technology Madigan Library (public institution).

The digital collection is all from local archives, and includes photographs, correspondence, minute books, diaries, scrapbooks, recipe books, newspaper stories, and more. It is of special interest because there is little primary source material available about women in the more rural areas of Pennsylvania, such as this area represents. The documents highlight the history of local women in volunteer and reform organizations, education, the arts, the workplace, and in their private lives. The majority of the materials are from the time period 1850-1970.

Based on reviewer’s feedback we have turned our old concept on its head.

Comments included:

  • The issue of moving “projects to programs” is one that is prevalent throughout the cultural heritage community. Solutions would be of strong interest to other institutions.
  • I am hopeful that the resultant recommendations would be innovative and would be able to be applied widely.
  • This is a strongly felt need within the wider community.
  • Sustaining aging, first and early generation digital collections is an issue we all are facing as a profession, so the need is clear. However, the methodology proposed needs more work as much hinges on which consultants are used. (Consultants were not identified in last year’s proposal.)
  • I’d like to see more than one digital collection as part of this project, ideally some from other institutions.
  • I feel there should be some reference to how DPLA might play a role in this work.

Now, we propose to crowdsource solutions from the field—for the field. We will bring together at least ten organizations from across the country who have aging digital collections themselves. These organizations have geographical diversity and a diversity of content. The participants will also represent a variety of institution types (academic and public libraries, consortia organizations—both volunteer-run and staff-driven, historical societies, and archives.) We will also bring in at least five organizations of leading small and mid-sized digital collection initiatives to talk about their approaches to digital collections, and identify innovative concepts and ideas to keep these collections relevant over time. The symposium will include representation from DPLA, and be facilitated by LYRASIS consultants.

Before the symposium the group will:

  • Research current trends and literature on digital program sustainability

During the symposium the group will:

Craft high priority recommendations that will include:

  • Identify low cost strategies
  • Identify strategies that need some investment
  • Identify strategies that would need significant investment
  • Identify next steps for implementation and how to make the results of the symposium viable for projects nationwide

Are you interested in working with LYRASIS to further define the scope of work to test your idea? 

We are very interested in working with LYRASIS and hope that LYRASIS consultants will facilitate the symposium. We would like LYRASIS consultants to also help us identify additional projects and to recruit participants for the symposium that will then represent a strong cross-section of the partners we need to make this symposium as robust as it should be to provide the maximum impact for the field at large.

We would also like to work with LYRASIS to help suggest marketing opportunities and spread the results of the idea to the membership and to provide opportunities to share results nationwide.

If relevant, list other organizations, besides LYRASIS, that you recommend as potential partners in implementing the idea 

1. We would like to work with DPLA

2. We would like to engage some national funders to participate in the discussions, IMLS and NEH, possibly the Knight Foundation, although we have not spoken with them yet

3. We have already identified one partner that we know is interested in this idea: a. Nebraska State Historical Society — digital imaging began in mid-1990s. They have numerous projects on different platforms and sites
b. We would like to approach the Orbis Cascade Alliance and see if they will put out a call to an interested member institution who would best represent this issue. The Alliance member organizations include archives and special collections located in the Pacific northwest

4. Additional partners that we think might have projects and that can act as leaders in this area include: a. Denver Public Library Western History Collection—they have been digitizing since the 1990s and they continue to innovate

We encourage constructive comments that would help define solutions to the issues raised by the ideas and/or provide context for how these ideas impact your organization.

One Comment

  • This is a widespread issue – many organizations struggle to transition from projects to programs and would benefit from a productive summit to come up with solutions that would help a wide range of institutions

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