Marin County Free Library uses CONTENTdm to connect its patrons with history

In 2005, staff at Marin County Free Library’s Anne T. Kent California Room selected CONTENTdm to manage their digital collections. They made this choice because CONTENTdm offers the flexibility to manage many different types of digital items, including their oral histories, images, and compound objects. Earlier this year, the California Room switched from locally hosting CONTENTdm to CONTENTdm hosted by OCLC.

“Now, I have the freedom to have CONTENTdm at my fingertips,” said Carol Acquaviva, Librarian & Digital Archivist for the library. “If I want to change something, I can go in and change it. If I need assistance, I can reach out to OCLC support. It’s a big help for me to know OCLC is now responsible for the automatic updates to CONTENTdm, so I no longer worry about them. Since we made this transition, I’ve added dozens of items and several new collections to CONTENTdm, and everything has gone smoothly.

The library also switched to CONTENTdm’s new responsive end-user interface earlier this year, which has improved the display of its oral history collections as well as the display of hundreds of images in the collections. Carol shared that patrons interact with the library’s CONTENTdm collections by submitting requests for digital reproductions of images and oral histories. Carol has been tracking these requests, and there has been a significant increase over the last few years. Because of the switch to CONTENTdm’s new end-user interface, the library has a more streamlined path to add more collections and materials to CONTENTdm, which makes it easier for patrons to find these rare items.

“CONTENTdm’s new responsive design is cleaner, less cluttered, and it fits our aesthetic,” said Carol. “It’s now easier for our users to access on any device. The process of switching to the new interface was simple.

The library has a unique way in which patrons and visitors connect with their digital and special collections. Many are drawn to the library’s physical space because of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center, where the library is housed. The California Room showcases a history of the building, and when visitors want to know more, they can use a kiosk computer to view the Frank Lloyd Wright and the Marin County Civic Center digital collection and other collections illustrating Marin County’s history in CONTENTdm. Although the library has a limited amount of display space for special collections, digital collections allow visitors to view hundreds of items. Patrons also continue their research after they leave by visiting the CONTENTdm collections from any device.

One of the library’s most popular CONTENTdm collections is its Oral Histories collection. This special collection contains several hundred audio files and transcripts of interviews conducted from 1974 to the present. One hundred eighteen of these interviews are online, and the library continues to add more files. Carol said that this is a unique collection because patrons get to hear someone’s personal experience. With this collection, researchers can see a picture of the interviewee, view the transcript as a PDF, listen to the full audio file, or listen to an excerpt. The library is focused on catering to a diverse audience. In-person and online visitors include local history enthusiasts, school children, genealogists, and authors writing books and scholarly publications.

Marin Civic Center

Administration Building upon completion in 1962, at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin County Civic Center, San Rafael. Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library.

From the CONTENTdm collection: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Marin County Civic Center

Panama Pacific Exposition

On The Zone, 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco. Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library.

From the CONTENTdm collection: Panama-Pacific International Exposition