Digitization partnerships with Minnesota Public Libraries

By DPLA, March 10, 2015.
Image of participants at Detroit Lakes PLPP training

Carla Urban leads a discussion with PLPP participants at the Detroit Lakes training in September 2014.

The Minnesota Digital Library (MDL) is one of four DPLA Service Hubs to be sub-awarded a grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, through the DPLA, for the Public Library Partnership Project (PLPP).  The purpose of PLPP is to develop a curriculum for teaching basic digitization concepts and skills and pilot it through workshops for public library staff, encourage and facilitate their participation in their local digital libraries and DPLA, and create collaborative online exhibitions based on materials digitized through this project. At the end of PLPP, we will also be sharing a self-guided version of the curriculum we built.

MDL was very pleased with the success of our implementation of the first stage of PLPP—we offered four digital skills training sessions to thirty-one individuals from twenty-two different public libraries and collaborating historical societies around Minnesota.  The training was so well received that we hope to incorporate similar basic group training sessions into our ongoing recruitment and preparation of potential participants.

We are now deep into the second phase of the PLPP in which the organizations propose projects, select appropriate materials from their collections and send them to us for digitization and metadata preparation. An early success was the contribution of a 1930 plat book of Polk County by the Fosston Public Library, the first organization to contribute to MDL from this county.

Map of Polk County, Minnesota

“Outline Map of Polk County, Minnesota.” Standard Map of Polk County, Minnesota, page 8-9. Courtesy of Fosston Public Library via Minnesota Digital Library.

One of the challenges we face is that, because of a very strong network of local historical societies throughout Minnesota, our public libraries don’t often have significant collections of archival or historic materials (Hennepin County Library being one important exception). However, we have been able to leverage our PLPP resources to encourage and support collaboration between public libraries and other organizations in their communities. In some cases, public libraries made new connections with city or county offices when collaborators realized they had materials that were worth preserving and making accessible, but didn’t know how to go about it and were not aware of MDL.  Public library participants in PLPP were able to identify these materials, make the case of online access, facilitate an avenue for digitization, and share description and rights assessment work. Because of the connections made via our PLPP library participants we’ll be digitizing the portraits of Duluth mayors, the master plans for county parks from the Washington County Park Board, and historically significant and previously inaccessible materials from the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, among other projects.

The Gates-funded project will wrap up at the end of September 2015.  Between now and then we will be completing additional projects and developing two online exhibitions built in part on materials digitized through this grant.

PLPP has strengthened our relationship with public libraries around the state, improved the digitization knowledge of public library staff, increased our capacity, and brought in materials to which we would otherwise not have had access.  MDL has been more than pleased by the outcomes of our participation in the PLPP!

Carla Urban will be co-leading a digitization training session, with Sheila McAllister of the Digital Library of Georgia, at DPLAfest 2015. To learn more about PLPP and lessons learned, come participate in the discussion!

Header image: Detroit Public Library, Detroit, Minnesota, 1913. Courtesy of Becker County Historical Society via Minnesota Digital Library.