Collaborating for Success: A Cross-Departmental Digitization Project (at Oregon State University Libraries)

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 

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Sue Kunda (Oregon State University Libraries)


2011-04-04_1508 In 2007 Oregon State University Libraries acquired the personal collection of Gerald “Jerry” Williams, a native Oregonian and former national historian for the U.S. Forest Service. The collection contains personal papers, historic images, serials, monographs, oral histories, maps, moving images, political posters, ephemera, and artifacts of the U.S. Forest Service and Civilian Conservation Corps. Four library units collaborated to catalog, digitize, and make available online more than 1700 (and counting) items from the collection. In this chapter are descriptions of the planning process, workflows, policies and procedures. The author documents technical and procedural obstacles, methods used to overcome these difficulties, and lessons learned in working through the barriers.


In 2007 the Oregon State University Libraries (OSUL) acquired the personal collection of Gerald “Jerry” Williams, a native Oregonian with a lifelong passion for Pacific Northwest history. Williams began his career with the U.S. Forest Service in 1979, working as a sociologist with the Umpqua National Forest located in southern Oregon. After stints with the Willamette National Forest and later the Pacific Northwest Regional Offices, Williams was appointed, in 1999, national historian for the U.S. Forest Service.  Throughout his career Williams was a prolific author and avid collector of Pacific Northwest historical documents, images, and artifacts.

The Gerald W. Williams Collection includes 35 years of Williams’ personal papers related to his more than 75 publications, 3100 monographs and serials, and over 6000 copies of documents from the papers of Gifford Pinchot, the first U.S. Forest Service chief. In addition, Williams collected more than 24,000 historic photographs, including photographic prints, postcards, sterographic images, and glass lantern slides. The voluminous collection also includes oral histories, maps, moving images, political posters, and ephemera from the U.S. Forest Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps. (2008). After inspecting the collection and consulting with on-campus stakeholders about its value to the OSU academic community, OSUL purchased everything but several works of art and a group of miscellaneous artifacts.

Once the collection was transported to OSU library administrators agreed digitization of the textual items and historic images would take precedence over the digitization of other components. Many of the monographs and serials had no copyright restrictions and the OSUL Digital Production Unit (DPU) already had a well-established digitization workflow for printed matter. The historical photographs were compelling and had considerable potential value for researchers. In addition, University Archives and DPU worked together on a daily basis to digitize and make available online photographs and other images.

Digitization Project

Project Pre-Planning

With the help of Digital Access Services staff and student workers, the subject librarian for Forestry went through Williams’ shelf lists and notes for the library portion of the collection to ascertain which titles were currently owned by OSUL and/or which titles were possible candidates for digitization. The Forestry subject librarian created a detailed spreadsheet documenting this information and a more general digitization matrix indicating the number of holdings at OSUL and number of items eligible for digitization. These documents were shared with an administrative team (University Archivist, Digital Access Services Head, Cataloging Unit Head, DPU Head, Digital Production Librarian) in order to gauge library resources. The Cataloging Unit Head was assigned project manager while the University Archivist and Digital Production Librarian were given oversight of the digitization of the images and textual items, respectively.

The Cataloging Unit Head facilitated a meeting with Cataloging and DPU staff to hammer out workflows and responsibilities. Attendees brainstormed ideas, devised two separate cataloging workflows, and agreed to do a one-week pilot test of each set of procedures to determine which was more efficient. Workflow #1 required Cataloging staff to organize the library portion of the Gerald W. Collection into the four groups in the Digitization Matrix (Public Domain/Not Held at OSU, Public Domain/Held at OSU, Non-Public Domain/Not Held at OSU, Non-Public Domain/Held at OSU) before beginning the cataloging process. Workflow #2 allowed Cataloging staff to begin cataloging without organizing the collection according to the Digitization Matrix. DPU staff also developed digitization workflows that coordinated with cataloging workflows.

The University Archivist and Head of Special Collections perused the library portion of the collection and flagged items deemed rare and/or valuable. After processing, these items would reside in the OSUL Special Collections rather than the general circulating collection.

Digital Repository Platforms

OSUL currently supports two digital repository platforms: DSpace and CONTENTdm.

DSpace: an open-source institutional repository platform developed by MIT and Hewlett-Packard, was originally designed to manage, archive, and provide access to textual documents making it an obvious choice for the monographs and serials in the collection. DSpace provides full-text searching through the Lucene search engine, which is especially conducive for print materials, and its contents are routinely crawled by search engine spiders. DSpace also offers permanent URLs, licensing, flexible metadata, and multiple digital preservation features.

CONTENTdm: a proprietary-based digital content management system first developed at the University of Washington and later purchased by OCLC Online Computer Library Center, was originally conceived to store and provide access to digital images. The software automatically generates thumbnails, JPEG, and JPEG2000s from TIFF digital files. Users can perform basic editing functions (resize, rotate, sharpen, crop), pan and zoom JPEG 2000 files, bookmark favorites, and create personal slideshows. Because of these more image-based capabilities, OSUL chose to use CONTENTdm to store and display the historic photographs, slides, and artifacts from the Gerald W. Williams Collection.

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


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