The Digital Library of Georgia: Partnering with Georgia’s Public Libraries through Georgia HomePLACE and the DPLA’s Public Library Partnerships Program

This Contribute post was provided by Sheila McAlister, C.A., Director of the Digital Library of Georgia, University of Georgia Libraries.

A division of GALILEO, Georgia’s virtual library, and housed at The University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) is the state’s cultural heritage digitization initiative. Active since 1996, DLG partners with libraries, archives, and museums to facilitate online access to resources about Georgia’s history, culture, and life. In addition to its Georgia portal, the DLG also hosts the IMLS-funded Civil Rights Digital Library and ASERL’s Civil War in the American South. In 2013, DLG became one of the first six service hubs for the Digital Public Library of America.

Collections from fourteen public library systems were digitized through Georgia HomePLACE prior to 2013.
Collections from fourteen public library systems were digitized through Georgia HomePLACE prior to 2013.

Since 2003, the DLG has partnered with the Georgia Public Library Service through the Georgia HomePLACE (Providing Library and Archives Collections Electronically) project. The collaboration has digitized primary source collections related to local history and genealogy of particular interest to public library patrons. The project has taken a two-pronged approach—digitizing content of state-wide impact such as over 500,000 pages of historic newspapers, the Vanishing Georgia Collection, Georgia Sanborn maps, and collections located in Georgia’s public libraries such as Ships for Victory: J.A. Jones Construction Company & Liberty Ships in Brunswick, Georgia, “Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Hills”: Gold and Gold Mining in Georgia, 1830s-1940s, and The Blues, Black Vaudeville and the Silver Screen, 1912-1930s: Selections from the Records of Macon’s Douglass Theatre. Digitization decisions are guided by the DLG’s collection development policy and the results of two surveys of Georgia public libraries, one in 2003 and the second in 2014.

In 2013, the DPLA was awarded $1 million by the Gates Foundation to increase public library participation in DPLA and digitization. When approached by the DPLA to join in the project, DLG staff jumped at the chance. We saw that the Public Library Partnerships Project (PLPP) had the potential to further extend our reach into the public library community by providing training and digitization services as well as an easy route to inclusion in DLG and ultimately in the DPLA. As hub partners, we were to hold three workshops in our state, digitize items from the collections of the workshop participants, and collaborate in creating two online exhibits which would draw from the new public library collections. Our three one-day workshops introduced the basics of digital projects. Topics included

  • selecting content for digitization;
  • scanning and metadata standards for sharing content;
  • understanding copyright and alternative forms of licensing; and
  • writing for the web and best practices for online exhibit curation.

Participants came from 38 of the 63 regional library systems and from the central office of Georgia Public Library Services. The sessions united the DLG with staff from 28 systems who had not previously worked with Georgia HomePLACE. Response after the training sessions was largely positive, and the training provided a good foundation for the future digitization projects. According to Cynthia Kilby, the assistant director of the Pine Mountain Regional Library System in Manchester, Georgia, “The workshop in Savannah was a big draw for me… I think this project will be helpful for patrons and they will enjoy it. Patrons can look and see images of their parents and grandparents and enjoy that. And children can use this as a resource for school projects.”

Photograph of Contractor Accessing Flood Damage at Wastewater Treatment Pond, Byron, Peach County, Georgia, 1994 July 8, Peach Public Libraries.
Photograph of Contractor Accessing Flood Damage at Wastewater Treatment Pond, Byron, Peach County, Georgia, 1994 July 8, Peach Public Libraries.

After the workshops ended, DLG staff visited with the public libraries to select materials for digitization. New collections will be available online through DLG as a result of that collaboration: these include scrapbooks documenting an early African American Boy Scout troop in Atlanta, photographs of the 1994 flood in Peach County, Georgia caused by tropical Storm Alberto, and images and memorabilia from the State Normal School in Athens.

Participation in PLPP has helped promote existing relationships with public librarians established through Georgia HomePLACE and strengthened our partnership with Georgia Public Library Service and their network of library constituents.

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