Bay Area library organization makes 80 years of its newsletter freely available on the Net
[This article originally appeared on the San Francisco Bay Region SLA website, 15 April 2015; The Bulletin/Bayline archive is available on the Internet Archive website]
By Heather Gamberg
SLA-SF Public Relations Chair
Two volunteers have helped make 80 years of a Bay Area library organization’s history available to the public.
In July 2013, the president of the San Francisco Bay Region Chapter of the Special Libraries Association hoped to track down photos of previous presidents of the chapter and asked that year’s co-archivists to see if they could get such photos from printed and bound copies of the chapter’s newsletter, named Bayline since 1998 and The Bulletin before that. The chapter has never had a permanent location or office space, so photos and other artifacts have not been consistently saved.
Cathy Salomon and Jonathan Leff headed down to the basement of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies (IGS) Library, where the newsletters live. After getting a peek at the newsletters, Leff and Salomon realized that a wealth of information documenting libraries’ and librarians’ roles in the Bay Area since 1924 was hidden away and should be accessible.
The archivists thought they might scan the entire lot of newsletters themselves, but realized that it would be an unwieldy and time-consuming task for anyone to do using regular scanners. Plus, the binding on the newsletters was tight and it would be difficult to scan the gutters. The binding, Leff explained, “makes it difficult to get good images and costs more. There is special equipment needed to scan books as opposed to just sheets of paper.”
Leff had been on a tour of the Internet Archive and knew that it had a book-scanning program, so he got approval from the chapter’s board to get a quote for having the 40 bound volumes scanned by the professionals at IA. The approximate cost of $2,500 was approved in September 2013.
After having IA test-scan four volumes of the newsletter in November, the project officially began. Jesse Bell coordinated the project from IA’s end and was extremely helpful. Not to be without a hitch, those four volumes were destroyed by a fire at IA. Fortuitously, they had already been scanned and IA provided replacement copies for free.
Over the next eight months, the heavy volumes were retrieved from the library, shepherded from Berkeley to IA’s processing site in San Francisco during its open hours, and returned to their basement home in Berkeley. Salomon and Leff’s schedules were incompatible with the IGS Library’s hours, so they were assisted by chapter members Rose Falanga, who helped bring the newsletters to the Internet Archive, and Julie Murphy, who returned them to Berkeley. The digitized versions of the newsletters also had to be proofed, a task that the archivists gladly shared with Falanga.
In August 2014, all bound volumes of the newsletter were digitized and freely available on the Internet Archive web site in a variety of formats, including PDF, epub, JPEG, and full text. Interestingly, the digitized newsletters were not very helpful in answering the original request. “Although the impetus for this project was to get images of past presidents,” Salomon said, “actually there were almost no photographs in the issues of Bayline at all.”
When asked what they had learned that might be useful to anyone taking on a similar, large-scale digitization project, Leff and Salomon pointed out that verifying the quality and accuracy of the scans was labor- and time-intensive. Leff recommends that one “plan for this or consider only spot-checking and trusting that the scans were done properly.”
And while the cost of having the Internet Archive scan the newsletters was low, there is a payoff. “When IA scans items, they will be displayed on IA’s website for anyone to access,” explained Salomon. “This means that IA would not be a good solution for documents with copyright restrictions or documents that you don’t necessarily want to make accessible to everyone.”
At the end of 2014, Leff and Salomon, who continued their archivist roles 2014, received the Special Project Award for the Bayline digitization project. Anne Barker, who was chapter president in 2013 and set the digitization project in motion by her request for photos, wrote on the nomination form, “Over 18 months, they worked patiently, diligently and thoroughly to see the project from its inception to completion, overcoming many obstacles, not the least of which a fire at the Internet Archives processing site.”
Salomon works part time in the History Room at the Mill Valley Public Library and volunteers at the Napa Historical Society. Leff is the Operations Analyst for the UCSF Center for Tobacco Control, Research and Education.