In 2008, The Seattle Public Library was able to move forward with its vision of digitizing its Seattle history collections to increase both accessibility and usage while preserving the fragile originals. The library wanted a flexible digital content management solution that would allow for customization. In addition, the solution had to be managed by a small special collections staff with limited IT resources. They chose CONTENTdm® Digital Collection Management Software to manage, deliver and preserve their digital collections online.
"We were attracted to CONTENTdm because it is such a widely used platform," says Bo Kinney, Special Collections Librarian. "That is important both for sustainability—we wanted to use something that would be around for a while—and for interoperability—we wanted our materials to be integrated into the larger world of library collections."
"CONTENTdm [being an OCLC service] was a big selling point, both for sustainability and the possibility of integrating those collections with other OCLC products through WorldCat®."
The Seattle Public Library staff was able to customize their user interfaces with only limited IT support. And because CONTENTdm software is a hosted solution, OCLC provides upgrades, system maintenance and technical support that help minimize staffing requirements.
With its small special collections staff, Seattle Public prioritizes quality over quantity when it comes to its digital collections. "It's important to recognize the necessity of a professional level of digital projects creation," Bo said. "High-quality metadata really makes your collections easier to use and more meaningful to your end user."
The team has worked to integrate its collections into broader databases including WorldCat. "We didn't want people to have to search in five different places if they are looking for Seattle history," Bo added. The team is also building awareness of its special collections, providing quick links on the library's home page, promoting new collections through special events and leveraging social media to share images and to drive community discussions.
While Bo and the other staff have ongoing plans to advance this digitization initiative, they recognize the contribution that the effort has made since its inception. "Digitizing special collections has real benefits for the library and the community. It makes our historical materials more available locally, nationally and internationally as well as helps to preserve the fragile originals by reducing the demand for those."