Selecting North Carolina Materials to Celebrate the Public Domain Expansion

Note: Lauren Geiger, a 2019 graduate of UNC’s School of Information and Library Science, was a field experience student in the Scholarly Communications Office during the 2018/19 school year. In this blog post, she describes her work with selecting materials from the North Carolina Collection that were published in 1923 and were suitable for digitization. The full list of materials that we digitized is available here.  For her master’s paper, To Bot or Not to Bot, Lauren went on to analyze the use of those materials in the first few months they were online.  

This wasn’t my first digitization project, but it certainly has become one my most important. Selecting and preparing materials to be digitized for the 1923 Public Domain expansion was an amazing experience, because my previous digitization efforts started after these initial steps. I was in unknown territory and loving every minute of it.

Thankfully, I was not alone in this effort. My supervisor, Anne Gilliland, and the special collections librarian, Sarah Carrier, guided me by setting the scope of the project. I was to select materials from the North Carolina Collection that were published in 1923 and fell within 8 categories:

• Education
• African Americans
• The University of North Carolina
• Public Health
• World War I
• Women
• Agriculture
• Chapel Hill

With my goal set, I started to go through the library catalog and selecting materials that fell into one of the categories. Now, this was not a simple, one-time process, because not all of the material I selected on my first pass could be scanned. If a book was taller than 16 inches or wider than 10 inches, it wouldn’t fit into the scanner. The materials also had be in good condition (not falling apart or having a torn spine), be able to open beyond 90 degrees, and they had to be four pages or longer. My initial collection of 130 odd materials was whittled down to about 20 after 45 minutes of review. With a newfound understanding of the specifications for digitization, I began to go through each of the 625 from the North Carolina Collection that were from 1923.

Each batch of materials brought new excitement as I envisioned what research could be done with them. However, over half of the time, disappointment replaced the excitement as I realized a certain piece was not fit to be scanned. I knew that researchers could still come and look at the material, but being able to put it online would have given the item a larger audience. This is one of the main purposes of digitization, to allow  people to see unusual or unique items and do with them what they will. (Since these materials went into the public domain as of January 1, 2019, people can do whatever they like with them! There is no copyright to restrict their creativity and thoughts.)

Out of the 625 items I identified initially, I was only able to prep 96 for digitization. These 96 items covered all but one of the categories (World War I), and then some. This sample is a good snapshot of the North Carolina Collection’s wealth of information because they cover everything from summer camps for children to parole in North Carolina to soil surveys.

My time in the North Carolina Collection was short, but I thoroughly enjoyed working the materials and everyone in the reading room.

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