Hudson River Valley Heritage: A Journey in Collaborative Digitization

The following chapter excerpt is from the fourth section of Digitization in the Real World; "One Plus One is Greater Than Two: Collaborative Projects."  Download the entire chapter for free (PDF) or purchase the complete book online at Amazon.com. 

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Authors

Jennifer Palmentiero (Southeastern N.Y. Library Resources Council)

Abstract

2011-03-08_0943 This chapter presents a case study of Hudson River Valley Heritage, a decentralized collaborative digitization effort coordinated by the Southeastern New York Library Resources Council (SENYLRC). The case study documents the journey of a network of small organizations with limited resources and limited digitization experience in developing an online digital repository of historical materials housed in libraries and cultural heritage organizations in an eight country region in New York. The intent of the chapter is to describe the process-- from inception, through planning to full implementation--and share what was learned for those who might be considering similar ventures.

Introduction

Libraries have always been about sharing--providing their user communities with access to information though a network of shared resources. The digital age has made sharing possible on a much wider scale than ever imagined. With these new opportunities comes the need for enhanced collaboration and an expanded notion of community. This chapter presents a case study of an effort to expand information sharing through a collaborative digitization project. The case study documents the journey of a network of small organizations with limited resources and limited digitization experience in developing an online digital repository. The intent of the chapter is to describe the process-- from inception, through planning to full implementation--and share what was learned for those who might be considering similar ventures.

Hudson River Valley Heritage (HRVH) is a collaborative digitization service coordinated by the Southeastern N.Y. Library Resources Council (SENYLRC). Several SENYLRC staff members were responsible for the conception, planning, and implementation of HRVH: John Shaloiko, Karen Starr, Patricia Carroll-Mathes, Christopher Hyzer, Tessa Killian, and Zack Spalding. I am also proud to be a member of this team as the Digital Services Librarian.

Our work would not be possible without the aid and support of a committee of regional professionals dedicated to helping move the service forward. The cultural heritage organizations that have risen to the challenge and enthusiastically learned to digitize their local history holdings make HRVH the valuable resource that it is today.

Background

SENYLRC is one of nine New York Reference and Research Library Resources Councils (“3Rs”). These multi-type library consortia, established and chartered by the NY State Board of Regents in the late 1960s, provide a variety of services to their members including continuing education, access to electronic resources, services to the health care community, consulting, information technologies, advocacy, and more recently digitization. Each New York 3Rs Council is “governed by a locally elected Board of Trustees and has substantial input from member libraries through a robust committee structure; and each receives operating and special program aid from the State of New York, along with locally generated funds.” The overriding goal of these systems is to do “collectively what their constituent libraries and library systems cannot do individually or what can be done better together” (NY3Rs Association, Inc., n.d.). It was in this spirit that HRVH was born.

SENYLRC’s mission is to support its members in the Mid-Hudson Valley in order to enrich their services and enhance access to information for their users. The council strives to achieve service excellence in libraries by:

  • Thoughtfully applying emerging technologies to resource sharing, collection building, information access and communications;
  • Providing imaginative, accessible and relevant development opportunities for staff at all levels;
  • Becoming a focal point for the exchange of ideas, collaboration, the development of new tools and the promotion of the transforming power of libraries.

The Hudson River Valley of New York is one of America’s most historic locales. HRVH provides free online access to historical materials from digital collections contributed by public, academic and special libraries, archives, museums, historical societies and other cultural heritage organizations in the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York State. HRVH documents the history of this eight-county region from the early colonial period to recent decades and includes photographs, manuscripts, clippings, cookbooks, scrapbooks, 3-D objects, yearbooks, oral histories, maps and newspapers.

The success of HRVH results from the effort and enthusiasm of a network of people committed to its growth. The roles and responsibilities for the development of HRVH are shared among SENYLRC staff, the organizations that contribute their unique resources, and an advisory committee of dedicated professionals. Participating organizations are responsible for the entire digitization workflow with generous help and support from the HRVH team at SENYLRC. The Council provides the technical infrastructure, access to CONTENTdmÒ digital collection software, equipment, documentation, and training. It is this model of collaboration and shared responsibilities that make HRVH a successful digitization service for the region. There was very little digitization expertise in the region when this journey began a decade ago and everyone involved had a lot to learn. At times it seemed like a “two steps forward one step back” process. HRVH is now a thriving digital service as well as a community of trained professionals working towards a common goal of providing unparalleled access to our region’s rich history.

Download the entire chapter for free (PDF) or purchase the complete book online at Amazon.com.

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