University of Scranton

Boost visibility of archival and special collections

photo: Weinberg Memorial Library, Charles Kratz Scranton Heritage Room
Weinberg Memorial Library, Charles Kratz Scranton Heritage Room

"We customized CONTENTdm to provide combined access to our archival and special collections content with our digital collections. In doing so, we provided better discoverability and engagement for our patrons."

Jennifer Galas
Library Systems Specialist, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Memorial Library, University of Scranton

Looking through the archival and special collections of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Memorial Library at the University of Scranton used to be very challenging. These collections include institutional and local history and rare books and manuscripts. “People often had no idea what we owned,” said Jennifer Galas, Library Systems Specialist.

Improved navigation and reduced manual tasks

Their online discovery information was haphazardly organized and scattered across different websites and platforms. “Our finding aids were either on paper or in a database that very few people could access. As our collections grew, we realized we needed to do something about this disorganization,” added Jennifer. The library already had CONTENTdm® but wasn’t taking advantage of the digitized content organization capabilities. After evaluating options, they decided to go all in and build from what they were already using.

"The integration of our archival and special collections with our digital collections has made a significant difference in how our patrons discover, perceive, and interact with our collections."

The library now showcases collections and supporting material with customized landing pages. And library users enjoy a consistent experience that makes items easy to find. “The ability to create a header with dropdown menus with links to other pages is one of the most useful organizational tools,” emphasized Jennifer. This header and footer persist across every page on the website, which eases discoverability.

Dropdown options offer a dynamic, collection-specific search. “The dropdowns are really cool because they interact directly with the metadata facets and will update dynamically. For example, if another staff member adds an item with a new academic year, it will immediately populate the dropdown with the new year. I won't have to do any manual work.”

Embedded timelines and maps add visual context

The team can easily create interesting visualizations that provide routes into collections. “We've embedded several timelines using timeline.js to highlight certain themes among our collection items, such as the library history timeline that we initially created for our 20th anniversary.” And they continue to build on that timeline to develop a more complete and robust history.

“Using Leaflet and GeoJSON files, we created a mapping application that shows current and former buildings on our campus. Each point on the map links to a page about each building. And each page links to more information and photographs of the building, which are taken from within our collections."

Additional customizations can be created without programming skills using either CONTENTdm interactive maps or a recipes from the CONTENTdm cookbook, a handy resource with a wide variety of example customizations.

More accessible archives, special collections, and digital materials

According to Jennifer, the library’s organization project succeeded in making its content more accessible and efforts will inevitably increase usage. “The integration of our archival and special collections with our digital collections has made a significant difference in how our patrons discover, perceive, and interact with our collections.”


  • Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States

Library at a glance

  • In 2021, library holdings totaled 1,097,174 print and electronic volumes
  • 140 electronic databases are accessible on the library’s website
  • Archives and special collections include the university’s historical records, rare books, faculty publications, and a penmanship collection

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