Idaho’s Digital Library: A Tale of Innovation and Collaboration
Academic libraries in Idaho banded together to create the Digital Library of Idaho (DLI). Ben Hunter, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Idaho, pointed to a strong desire to make various collections available to a general-interest audience and scholars doing research. Not only would the group be open to anyone with an internet connection, but they can also access these materials from one main site, rather than having to go through pages of Google search results.
EveryLibrary is a Gold-Rated 501c4 nonprofit on Guidestar.
It’s well known that libraries are excellent sources of information and resources on virtually any topic or concept. But sometimes, knowing which library has which resources can be hard to figure out, especially if the resources are only available for in-person visitors. Someone researching various parts of a state’s history could drive dozens, if not hundreds, of miles visiting multiple history collections in libraries all over the state. The amount of time needed to do that research is extensive and hard to find, even with the assistance of resources such as WorldCat.
That’s why academic libraries in Idaho banded together to create the Digital Library of Idaho (DLI). Ben Hunter, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Idaho, pointed to a strong desire to make various collections available to a general-interest audience and scholars doing research. Not only would the group be open to anyone with an internet connection, but they can also access these materials from one main site, rather than having to go through pages of Google search results.
Collaboration is Key
Several organizations had already been working to build digital archives. As the disparate groups began having conversations and comparing notes on what each had, they found it even more effective to compile them centrally. Hunter noted that his library in Moscow, Idaho has a significant collection of historical materials about northern Idaho, but it also has a bit about Boise. Boise State University, in turn, has a lot about Boise, but they also have extensive collections around northern Idaho. Someone interested in researching northern Idaho would have previously traveled to both universities to access both groups.
Take action today to support libraries!
Software Makes the Project Sustainable
Devin Becker, head of Data and Digital Services for the University of Idaho, had been building software called the Collection Builder to provide libraries with a simple user interface for creating digital collections. He hoped it would eventually lead to collaborations with other libraries and cultural groups in the state. The software is free and easy to use, making it attractive to staff with tight budgets and limited time.
Centralizing Records, A One-Stop-Shop
There are nearly 200 collections in the DLI, everything from Mining in Idaho to Lake City High School Yearbooks to Idaho Historical Maps to oral history projects. “If you look at it right now, you’ll see that, for example, the University of Idaho has internet Jazz collections, and those collections are represented in the Digital Library of Idaho,” Hunter said. “We’ve had a great jazz festival here at the university for many decades. In Idaho, jazz is not the first connection many people make. But that is a collection of distinctions here in our university.”
And now, it’s a collection readily available among many others, thanks to the work of Hunter, Becker, and their colleagues. Once again, librarians innovate and break new ground to continue providing resources to as many people as possible, as efficiently as possible.