Digitization efforts in the US have, to date, been overwhelmingly dominated by academic libraries, but public libraries are increasingly finding a niche by looking to their local collections as sources for original content. The Hennepin County Library has partnered with the Minnesota Digital Library (MDL)—and now the Digital Public Library of America—to bring thousands of items to the digital realm from its extensive holdings in the James K. Hosmer Special Collections Department. These items include maps, atlases, programs, annual reports, photographs, diaries, advertisements, and trade catalogs.
Our partnership with MDL has not only provided far greater access to these hidden parts of our collections, it has also made patrons much more aware of the significance of our collections and the large number of materials that we could be digitizing. The link to DPLA has further increased our awareness of the potential reach of our collections: DPLA is already the second largest source of referrals to our digital content on MDL. All this has motivated us to increase our digitization activities and place greater emphasis on the role of digital content in our services.
Recently, we have been contributing hundreds of items related to local businesses in the form of large advertising posters, trade catalogs, and over 300 business trade cards from Minneapolis companies. These vividly illustrated materials provide a fascinating view of advertising techniques, local businesses, consumer and industrial goods, social mores and popular culture from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Hennepin County Library is committed to serving as Hennepin County’s partner in lifelong learning with programs for babies to seniors, new immigrants, small business owners and students of all ages. It comprises 41 libraries, and has holdings of more than five million books, CDs, and DVDs in 40 world languages. It manages around 1,750 public computers, has 11 library board members, and is one great system serving 1.1 million residents of Hennepin County.
Featured image credit: Detail of 1893 Minneapolis Industrial Exposition Catalog, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Courtesy of Hennepin County Library’s James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library via the Minnesota Digital Library.
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