The Scottsdale Public Library (SPL) recently went live with the Papago Salado Story Tour Collection, a digitized project that features historic photos of several of their city’s most notable buildings, accompanied by audio files of locals telling stories about those buildings.
The collection got its start last year, when Arizona’s Papago Salado Association received a grant from the Arizona Humanities Council to record memories of historical buildings. The Association envisioned a straightforward walking-tour program. And now, using prominently posted QR codes, tourists or locals visiting sites like Cavalliere’s Blacksmith Shop or the Loloma School can use their mobile devices to check out the resulting collection of photos and MP3s.
But SPL helped the Association broaden the project’s horizons, first by supplementing the group’s historical pictures with additional digitized photos from the library’s own collection, and then by hosting the entire project on SPL’s Digital Collections site, making it accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
“It’s a great example of what we’re doing as far as partnerships,” Dana Braccia, SPL’s public services senior manager told LJ. The Association had an engaging walking tour on their hands, but “had the library not gotten involved, there would have been a very limited audience for this fantastic work.”
Preserving local history is one of the changing roles of public libraries, Braccia said. In this case, a community group had the money, the motivation, and the manpower to build a collection, but they lacked the infrastructure to ensure that the project was preserved long-term, or made available to a wider audience. Now the project joins others from groups including the Scottsdale Historical Society, and SPL’s own “Walking History Books” collection featuring images, interviews, and video contributed by citizens of Scottsdale.
These types of partnerships have been facilitated by the use of the Content Pro platform by Innovative Interfaces Inc., noted Aimee Fifarek, SPL’s library technologies and content senior manager.
“Before we had this, we were actually using an add-on module to our catalog,” Fifarek explained. As a result, library website or on-site searches were the only ways that patrons could discover SPL’s digital collections. Now, “it’s completely open to the Internet.”
Content Pro has also allowed SPL to shift some of the cataloging workload over to these other organizations, she added.
“It’s very simple to use. You do not have to be a fully trained cataloger or metadata specialist,” she said, so these projects can rely on volunteer assistance overseen by a metadata librarian. With historical collections, this has proven particularly helpful, because where a librarian might need to track down information about any given photo, members of these organizations are often already familiar with the significance of each image or artifact that they wish to share or preserve.
SPL tells interested groups “you know your organization, your organization’s history. You give us some labor and we’ll give you some training,” Fifarek said.
This type of collaboration was part of the vision when Content Pro was developed. Simplicity was a high priority, said Lisa Conrad, product manager for Innovative Interfaces.
“The intellectual work comes with organizing a collection. We wanted the software to be the easiest part of that process,” she said.
Using simple Dublin Core data fields, autofill functions, dropdown menus and a system that makes photo uploading similar to sending an e-mail attachment, “we’ve made it possible for libraries to train people to take some of that workload off of the library itself,” Conrad added.
Building local, Internet-accessible collections like these also makes it easier for libraries to demonstrate the value of digitization efforts to their board, their university, or other constituents, Conrad said. And, libraries can also keep patrons engaged with web-accessible content by simply featuring these collections in different ways.
“It’s not just the management and visibility of these materials,” she said. “Once we get over that hump and materials are there [in the system], libraries need to continue to integrate that content in new ways,” such as slideshows, curated groups of images or audio files, and special online exhibits.