IU Libraries digitization project creates rich repository of Hoosier authors

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — An Indiana University Libraries project that will allow anyone to research Hoosier authors and their bibliographies online — as well as access hundreds of digitized books — is nearly complete.

Conceived years ago and funded in 2006 by a Library Services and Technology Act grant through the Indiana State Library, the “Indiana Authors and Their Books” project oversaw digitization of a three-volume reference set published by Wabash College that covers nearly 200 years of Indiana’s literary history.

The books include authors who were born, raised or educated in Indiana, or who lived in the state for a major portion of their lives.

The website hosted by IU Libraries includes more than 7,000 author entries and nearly 21,000 book citations. It links directly to about 400 digitized copies of selected titles and allows users to search for remaining titles via external services like Google Books, WorldCat, Hathi Trust Digital Library and the Libraries’ online catalog, IUCAT.

Entries range from well-known authors such as James Whitcomb Riley, Booth Tarkington and Gene Stratton Porter to the lesser known, such as an entry for Ethel Mathilda Green Adams, a public schoolteacher who wrote a book about musical understanding in the 1960s. In addition to works of literature, there are a number of nonfiction works including histories of local towns, counties and churches. These sources, and a handful of regimental histories dating to the Civil War, are a genealogical gold mine.

“Our hard work on this project has created a really rich resource that is already receiving more than 28,000 unique visits per month from users,” digital projects and usability librarian Michelle Dalmau said. “I see it as an important K-12 tool, while it can also assist scholars who are researching more obscure authors. Users are able to browse by author, book title or publication date, creating possibilities for deep textual analysis.”

Dalmau plans to share encoded texts and descriptive metadata with the state library to include in the Indiana Digital Library portal, Indiana Memory.

The original project had called for digitization of about 150 curated titles from 1880 to 1920, an era known as Indiana’s Golden Age of Literature. But the explosion of Google Books and other resources such as the HathiTrust Digital Library onto the digitization scene opened up new possibilities, allowing for access to hundreds more titles than originally expected, Dalmau said.

In addition to the original 150 books digitized for the grant, IU Libraries staff digitized an additional 250 books available through the project themselves, focusing on important books from Indiana’s literary and historical heritage. These books become available as staff complete them — on average, four new books every month.

That crucial behind-the-scenes effort is also benefitting Indiana University in another way: The Digital Library Program partnered with the Library Technical Services Department to generate new workflows for digitization for the project, opening new doors for future collaboration.

Once the texts are encoded and available online, Technical Services staff catalog those digital texts, a full-service treatment that makes metadata/cataloging librarian Jennifer Liss proud.

“In a time in when public libraries are pushing back against outdated publishing and distribution models for e-books, it’s gratifying to know that our work makes these digital texts — and their respective high-quality cataloging records — freely available to anyone with an Internet connection and a browser,” she said.

The partnership brought other changes, including the development of cataloger expertise in new tools. Digital library staff did a fine job lowering technical barriers for catalogers to participate in digital projects, Liss said, noting that 70 percent of all Technical Services catalogers now provide metadata for digital projects.

“Now that we’ve ‘productionized’ this process, so to speak, it opens the door to partner in other ways,” Dalmau said. “We’ve set up workflows where contributions from catalogers are facilitated with minimal intervention by digital library technologists.”