Tuesday, December 18, 2012

To Great Teamwork

Almost ten years ago John Cocklin, Economics and Social Science Data Librarian, was contacted by Readex (a division of NewsBank Corporation) to borrow a small number of volumes from the U. S. Congressional Serial Set. They were digitizing their microfilm edition of the Serial Set and wanted to scan color images from our printed copies in order to enhance the product they were developing. On the success of that initial loan, Readex approached John about a collaboration of a much greater scope. A full color digital edition of the American State Papers (1789-1838) and the U. S. Congressional Serial Set from 1817-1980 using Dartmouth’s paper copy.

(See The U.S. Congressional Serial Set Project for a summary)

This would be a major undertaking and involve collecting, conserving, transporting, and re-shelving over 14,000 volumes. The joint venture began in 2005 and was projected to be completed in 4 years. For a variety of reasons, including expanding the project to include other publications and staffing ebb and flow, it has (happily from our view) doubled in duration so that we are in the 8th and final year.

Scholars have benefited from the digitized Serial Set, and the ability to search the full-text of the contents has led to new discoveries. An example is the number of women who served as men in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. The Serial Set contains a larger number of petitions to Congress for pensions from these women, indicating the practice was more prevalent than previous research had indicated.

The success of the joint project is in large part due to teamwork. In the early stages, there were almost daily emails or phone calls between the project managers and key project staff. As the normal rhythm took over, the need for daily communication lessened but is still there. Readex staff might identify a missing scan and Dartmouth staff will track it down in the stacks to verify if it exists. If a Dartmouth patron needs to borrow a volume that is at Readex, we know they will have it back in Hanover within twenty-four hours.

Every year the project team members gather to talk about what is working, what could be improved, and what we see happening in the coming months. We’ve gotten into the habit of each taking turns hosting the event. When the Readex team comes to Dartmouth they are able to check on the physical volumes and double check the item count in order to adjust their benchmarks. When we visit Readex we are able to touch base with the scan operators and provide training updates on book handling. As the Library’s digital program has taken shape, we have learned useful project management tips from our Readex colleagues. Our last project meeting was at Readex in Chester, VT and focused on winding down the project sometime in April 2013.

Teamwork – something to celebrate.

Written by Barbara Sagraves.

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