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Southeastern New York Library Resources Council
The Hudson River Valley Heritage Service
Online access to historical materials from
The Southeastern NY Library Resources Council (SENYLRC) is one of the nine reference and research library resources councils in NYS created over 35 years ago by the founding libraries in the mid Hudson Valley region and charted by the Board of Regents. The mission of the Southeastern NY Library Resources Council is to support its members in the Mid Hudson Valley in order to enrich their services and enhance access to information for their users. SENYLRC's vision: to achieve service excellence in libraries by: 1) thoughtfully applying emerging technologies to resource sharing, collection building, information access and communications; 2) providing imaginative, accessible and relevant development opportunities for staff at all levels; and 3) becoming a focal point for the exchange of ideas, collaboration, the development of new tools and the promotion of the transforming power of libraries.
There are 73 governing member libraries of all types (academic, special, corporate, hospital, large public and library systems) and cultural heritage institutions that receive services from SENYLRC. SENYLRC also provides services to over 425 school and public libraries that are members of member public and school library systems. The projected annual budget for 2006-2007 is about $1.5 million in revenue and expenditures. In recent years the use of technology by SENYLRC has been important to facilitate information access.
The project for which SENYLRC is applying for The Joseph F. Shubert Excellence Award is The Hudson River Valley Heritage (HRVH) Service.
The purpose of HRVH is to provide online access to historical materials from New York State's Hudson River Valley to researchers, students and the general public. Through HRVH, users find, in digital format, an ever-growing collection of photographs, maps, letters, postcards, manuscripts, scrapbooks, programs from events, memorabilia and ephemera, audio and video clips, and many other materials from local libraries, archives, and museums. This service is a true collaborative digital initiative among libraries and cultural heritage institutions in the counties of Columbia, Greene, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Rockland, Orange, and Putnam. It is guided by a committee created by the SENYLRC Board of Trustees, the Digital Advisory Committee (DAC), composed of librarians, archivists and curators from the region.
After several years of planning and collaborating, analyzing standards and best practices to apply to the digitization and cataloging of digital objects, SENYLRC launched the HRVH service during the 2nd quarter of 2004. Using federal LSTA money and state Regional Automation (RBDB) funds, SENYLRC acquired a powerful server and entered into a license from OCLC to use a digital content management software called CONTENTdmtm. These activities positioned SENYLRC to host a unique service in the entire Hudson Valley -- web access to the myriad of documents, pictures, audio and video clips, etc. that reflect the unique history and heritage of the region.
Under the direction of DAC, SENYLRC embarked on a pilot project whereby three organizations --Vassar College, Wilderstein Preservation and Marlboro Public Library -- agreed to help the committee identify the implementation issues as they began to digitize their collections and create the metadata for inclusion in the new regional digital access service - Hudson River Valley Heritage. For each of these three organizations, it required a) the selection of a collection to digitize, b) the creation of the digital object of each collection item through scanning, c) the creation of metadata (information about each digitized object) to enable object identification through an easy search process, and d) the final uploading of the objects and metadata to the HRVH server for access through the WEB. Vassar's collection included "Images of Early Vassar." Wilderstein's collection consisted of World War I materials at Wilderstein, home of the local Suckley family, with focus on the activities of Henry Eglinton Montgomery Suckley. Marlboro contributed "a community scrapbook of people, places, and events in the Town of Marlboro."
To ensure the viability of the HRVH service, SENYLRC committed several staff members to the endeavor. SENYLRC's Digital Project Specialist guides the contributing organizations in their scanning and metadata efforts, the Systems Manager maintains the server, high speed internet line, digital management software, and installs the necessary client software at each contributing institution. SENYLRC's Manager of Technology & Administrative Services ensures the associated planning and communication activities for HRVH, including promotion and marketing. Finally the Executive Director has contributed much of his time to the emerging HRVH service.
On June 9, 2006 SENYLRC presented the "debut" of HRVH to the entire library and cultural heritage community in the region, and, through the press, to the general public. Over 130 people attended the event at The Locust Grove Samuel B. Morse Historic Site. Presently, HRVH hosts collections from 22 libraries and cultural heritage institutions with a total of about 7,500 digitized objects.
Examples of collections in HRVH include the Maverick Festival from the 1920's in Woodstock, NY (Woodstock Public Library), a post card collection from the public libraries of Rockland County, documents and photographs from the benefactor families of Orange County Community College, and selected 17th century manuscripts from the Huguenot Historical Society. (See the attachment that begins with a printout of the HRVH home page for descriptions of all the collections currently searchable through HRVH.)
In New York State, digital libraries are recognized as a key component in the development of the regional and statewide information infrastructure known as the New York Online Virtual Electronic Library (NOVEL), which supports access to information by all New Yorkers, including the research and educational community. Doorways to Information in the 21st Century, New York's statewide automation plan, recommends that "in order to expand the scope of online information available to residents of New York, libraries should be encouraged to provide access to some of their resources in digital format via the Internet."
Such statements are easily supported by the increased demand for access to collections being driven by the Internet phenomenon. Historians and other scholars use the Internet to explore more far-reaching disciplines. Genealogists and other research hobbyists conduct personal research from their own homes. Students and teachers need access to authoritative and accurate information from reliable sources.
Furthermore, Eric Roth, Executive director of the Huguenot Historical Society, authored an assessment report under contract with SENYLRC in 2001. In Opportunities, Challenges, and Priorities: Developing a Collaborative Digitization Plan for the Mid-Hudson Valley,Eric noted:
Overall, it can be said that digitization plays an important role for a small number of repositories within the region, (mostly notably three academic libraries and two public libraries). The majority of repositories within the region, however, feel that they simply lack the necessary expertise, infrastructure, and resources to lead or fully participate in digitization projects, specifically in relation to the primary source materials that most feel should be the first items targeted for digitization. The large amount of the historical treasures still lying in the region's repositories remains largely inaccessible.
The cultural heritage institutions (libraries, archives, museums, historical societies and repositories, etc.) of the southeastern New York region will collaborate to provide to the public continually improved access to their unique and special collections in digital format.
To achieve this vision, these institutions will share:
- a common understanding of the richness, variety and public value of the collections in their care;
- the benefits and choices involved in creating, maintaining, disseminating and providing access to these collections through digital means;
- the standards and legal requirements by which they should assess, manage and provide access to digital content;
- and the benefits of staff training and continuing education relevant to digitization issues.
It was clear in 2001 that, if items from the region's collectively rich historical repository were to be more accessible via the Internet and WEB, an organization had to step forward to coordinate and administer an initiative in partnership and collaboration with key players in the region. Under the encouragement of its Board of Trustees, SENYLRC stepped forward to be that organization.
In 2001, SENYLRC received a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the New York State Library to develop a region-wide plan for the digitization of library, archival, museum, and other important materials in the pursuit of making them more accessible to researchers. The development of a regional plan, under the guidance of a Regional Digitization Advisory Task Force (RDATF), was viewed as a critical and necessary first step to create the collaborative environment among multiple institutions that would result in a regional digital identity and, to this end, facilitate the acquisition of funding from a variety of sources.
The Regional Digital Advisory Task Force drafted a vision statement and developed the goals, objectives, and activities incorporated in a long range plan: Digitization Program Plan For the Southeastern Region of New York (April 2002). In this process, the RDATF also identified key stakeholders and mandates, and discussed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats that would likely arise during the planning and implementation processes. More importantly, the group reached consensus to move forward with a regional digitization planning process and to work together to achieve its implementation and success.
The Plan outlined six goals that were deemed as critical that would lead to the success of what is now the Hudson River Valley Heritage service:
Goal 1 Organizational Infrastructure -- Create a cross-organizational steering committee comprised of representatives from seven to nine key institutions in the region to guide the implementation initiatives for this regional digital effort
Goal 2 Collection Selection Criteria -- Establish selection criteria to identify target collections to be digitized by cultural heritage institutions within the southeastern New York region
Goal 3 Standards -- Agree upon and adopt standards for metadata and scanning that will facilitate collaborative digitization
Goal 4 Legal Issues -- Identify the legal issues relating to digitizing collections and develop an awareness strategy to educate the staff of the regional cultural heritage institutions that are contemplating digitizing a collection
Goal 5 Accessible Collections -- Create a regional collection of digital objects, contributed by cultural heritage institutions within the southeastern New York region, which is open, distributed and easily accessible by the public
Goal 6 Training -- Provide training and consulting opportunities, focusing on the digitizing of materials and managing digital projects, for staff of the cultural heritage institutions
After the development of the Plan, but prior to the creation of the HRVH service, SENYLRC sponsored a series of workshops, funded by LSTA, focusing of all aspects of digitization. The Southeastern Digital Information Institute was conducted between 2002 and 2003. Another series is underway which began in 2005 and continues into next year. Both Institutes address a range of issues faced by staff that are developing and/or managing digital information resources in HRVH. A total of about 350 people from 65 institutions have or are attending these Institute workshops. See the HRVH Fact Sheet for additional impact information (in particular "initial statistics").
Finally, Duane Watson, Archivist & Curator of Wilderstein Preservation, Rhinebeck, N.Y., (one of the pilot HRVH organizations) observes:
Wilderstein Preservation's WWI digital project has generated increased inquiry on our website and very positive reaction from one of our major collection support foundations. For us, the project is a much needed and appreciated opportunity to work together with other institutions in making collections and resources visible and available for use by students, researchers and scholars.
Southeastern New York Library Resources Council: "The Hudson River Valley Heritage (HRVH) Service," providing online access to historical materials from New York State's Hudson River Valley to researchers, students and the general public.
Southeastern New York Library Resources Council | Back to the Shubert Awards page.