DATE: June 11, 2014
Streamlining Statewide Preservation and Digitization
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) is leading a statewide effort to increase access to and preserve the Commonwealth's historic resources. The project will develop a streamlined, coordinated process for identifying historical assets held by libraries, historical societies, museums, archives, municipal offices, and community agencies. It will assess and organize them for digitization services and seek sustainable funding to support ongoing work. The process also includes the preservation of these materials.
To head up this project, the MBLC has formed a committee that will develop a Preservation and Access to Historic Resources Plan. The committee - comprised of representatives from the MBLC, the Boston Public Library's (BPL) Library for the Commonwealth, the Digital Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Archives, the State Advisory Council on Libraries, Simmons College, and the Jones Library in Amherst - will build on the success of BPL's digitization project, originally funded with grants from the MBLC.
Digitization increases access to historic resources. For example, before Boston Public Library (BPL) digitized the John Adams Library, it was generally viewed only a dozen times year. Since being digitized, it has been viewed by millions of people. "We're making it possible for everyone, no matter where they are, to share in the cultural richness of Massachusetts. This kind of open access is fundamental to our role as librarians, archivists, and historians," Cindy Roach, head of library advisory and development and government liaison at the MBLC, said.
Since 2011, the BPL has been able to open up its state-of-the-art digitization facility to any organization that agrees to make their digital collection available on the Digital Commonwealth portal. More than 162 organizations, representing over 100 different Massachusetts communities, have been included to date.
The Digital Commonwealth, in partnership with the Boston Public Library, is also one of seven service hubs for the national Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), which makes the holdings of America's research libraries, archives, and museums available to all. The BPL and the Digital Commonwealth act together as an onramp for every institution in the state or region to participate in the DPLA network.
"We're fortunate to have so many historic and cultural resources in Massachusetts, but that also underscores the need for a coordinated effort. Working together is the key to success," Gregor Trinkaus-Randall, preservation specialist at the MBLC, said. "The plan we develop will benefit many organizations, and residents will have easy access to materials that might have otherwise gone undiscovered."
The statewide effort will also address funding. "When we have a coordinated plan in place, we'll be better able to identify sustainable funding," Ms. Roach said. "The process will give us a full statewide picture of what is needed and ensure that funding is used in the most efficient, effective way possible."
The committee began its work this spring with a survey to determine which organizations have holdings for assessment. To view or participate in the survey, click here (submissions are due on June 27, 2014). In the fall, the committee will conduct focus groups and site visits. Massachusetts is among the first states in the nation to undertake such an initiative, and the plan in development here is set to serve as a model for others to use in the future.
The Board of Library Commissioners (mass.gov/mblc) is the agency of state government with the statutory authority and responsibility to organize, develop, coordinate and improve library services throughout the Commonwealth. The Board advises municipalities and library trustees on the operation and maintenance of public libraries, including construction and renovation. It administers state and federal grant programs for libraries and promotes cooperation among all types of libraries through regional library systems and automated resource sharing. It also works to ensure that all residents of the Commonwealth, regardless of their geographic location, social or economic status, age, level of physical or intellectual ability or cultural background, have access to essential new electronic information technologies and significant electronic databases.