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Simmons library students are learning how to build a digital library using a scrapbook from Mount Holyoke College’s Archives and Special Collections

Nov 16, 2011 by Jennifer King


Students at the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) have been a presence on the Mount Holyoke campus for a decade, using the Williston & Miles-Smith Library, and holding weekend classes. The program is called Simmons GSLIS West, and many of the region’s librarians and information science experts have gotten their education at this location.

Now, the relationship has turned more collaborative. This fall, for the first time, Simmons, which is based in Boston, is offering a class in digital libraries to its Western Mass. students. And the digital scrapbook they are creating was donated by a Mount Holyoke alumna, Virginia Drosten, class of 1969.

What is a digital library?
A digital library is a specific online collection that is stored on computers—as opposed to microfiche or DVD—that collects, describes, and preserves digital content. The library is targeted toward a defined user community, in this case, the Mount Holyoke students, faculty, and alumnae.

Where does the content come from?
The content may be born digital, meaning it was created on a computer, such as an article, website, or photograph. Or, as in the case of the Drosten project, it may digitized from an existing physical medium. The scrapbook is a collection of materials Drosten gathered and pasted in during her undergraduate years. The 300-plus items in the book include flyers from concerts she went to, including the Byrds and Moby Grape, cards given to her by friends and family, invitations to events, program guides from WMHC, and newspaper clippings from football games she attended with her boyfriend from Yale. The collection gives a snapshot of life at an elite New England women’s college during the turbulence of the late 1960s.

Who is involved?
The Mount Holyoke end of the project is overseen by Archives and Special Collections Librarian Jennifer Gunter King, whom the class refers to as their client. As such, King is given regular reports on the project’s status, and holds occasional meetings with students in charge of the various aspects of the project, including digitization, metadata, web design and system administration, and content.  

Staff in Digital Assets and Preservation Services, James Gehrt, Sarah Goldstein and Erin Fahy, work closely with the Simmons students to digitize each item on the scrapbook’s 74 pages and establish a metadata schema. The scanning has been overseen by Gehrt using the Digitization Center in the MEWS.

The Virginia Drosten scrapbook was selected in part because it adds a layer of context to the recently processed and exhibited papers of Wendy Wasserstein. The Virginia Drosten Memory Book will be completed in early December, and will become available for use as part of the Archives and Special Collections online digital collection  .

By Sasha Nyary, Simmons GSLIS student, sashanyary@gmail.com

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