Library digitizes to widen availability
Main Library employee Laura Carter scans a magazine on the university’s scanner Wednesday afternoon. Carter is one of the people responsible for digitizing select works to make them more accessible.
What began as a project to digitize a collection of Chicago Tribune newspapers in 2009 has expanded to provide a resource of thousands of digitized pages of books and publications for MSU Libraries.
The purchase of an advanced scanner jump-started the process of digitization at MSU, said Shawn Nicholson, head of the Digital and Multimedia Center and assistant director of the Digital Information Division of MSU libraries.
Before the DigiBook SupraScan A0 overhead planetary scanner was bought, library administrators deliberated for months choosing the equipment, which cost about $130,000. A grant from the McCormick Foundation to MSU’s School of Journalism funded the equipment that enabled staff members to scan about 12,000 images and 5,500 pages of the newspapers.
The scanner creates images of books and publications that can be edited digitally and published online. Documents are searchable through optical character recognition, which recognizes words in scanned documents, said John Shaw, assistant unit head and supervisor of the G. Robert Vincent Voice Library and the Digital and Multimedia Center.
The equipment is unique because of the quality of the images and its ability to scan large documents, Shaw said. Only a handful of other universities have access to similar equipment, he said.
Now, staff in the Digital and Multimedia Center continue to work to digitize rare books and magazines for public use. The center digitizes books, publications and audio for colleges in the university and other outside organizations as well, Shaw said.
Digitization also preserves rare books that, despite careful handling, eventually will deteriorate, he said.
“MSU Libraries are all about access,” Shaw said. “(Books and publications are) not a thing to hide on a shelf that no one can use.”
Although the library staff members’ primary goal is to “enrich student lives” and education at the university, digitizing the university collection also will give a wider audience access to MSU resources, Nicholson said.
“Fundamentally, we want to reach not just our population but the world at large,” he said. “Reaching an audience much larger than MSU is definitely interesting and exciting.”
Providing access to the unique collections at MSU, such as MSU’s unique and expansive collection of publications on turf grass, is important in enriching the digital knowledge base, Shaw said. Students and faculty members in the center work to scan and digitize literature that is not available online through other sources, such as Google Books, he said.
After working with the Digital and Multimedia Center for about five years, Grace Metz, student supervisor in the center and anthropology senior, said she realized the depth and the expansive future in the field of digitization. After graduation, she said she is considering continuing her work in digitization.
“The dissemination of information is really important to scholars and people in the academic world but also just everyday people who want to see what’s out there,” Metz said.