Thursday, April 13, 2006

Rochester Public Library City Directory Digitization Project

After participating in the recent tour sponsored by the SU student chapter of the Special Libraries Association of the Rochester Public Library's Kirtas scanner, I thought it only fitting that I should point out the digitization project for which the scanner is primarily used. The Rochester Public Library is in the process of scanning the city's directories, of which they have many dating back to the early 1800s. They've scanned dozens of directories on a page-by-page basis and those directories are accessible here.

During the demonstration of the machine, which was the first such machine bought by a public library (here's a news article about the library acquiring the machine), it was explained that many of the directories are in fragile condition. Therefore, the digitization process helps preserve some of these books. Another reason for this digitization project is that the demand is quite high for the information in the directories. Requests for information come from all over the world. By digitizing the directories, people from all over the world benefit, as do the staff's librarians who were perhaps devoting time to researches for out-of-towners.

Overall, while the project is worthwhile and one of a few (if not the only project) instigated by a public library, the Web display of the site is a little lacking. With few frills, the site just offers the pages of the directory in numerical order. The pages of the directories open up via Adobe Acrobat, which is perhaps less than ideal but at least Acrobat is free software and easily downloadable. There is a set of FAQ to answer some questions as to how to use the directory. However, a little more information actually regarding the digitization process would be really helpful to outsiders. Even just a small blurb about how the library got these directories or why they were chosen to be digitized, etc... would be helpful.

1 comment:

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Cheri, thanks for posting this about your "field trip."