MELBOURNE. Mount Gambier Public Library, in South Australia, succeeded in digitising, filing and placing online an invaluable record of local history in time for the city's 50 years a city anniversary on December 9, 2004 thanks to the efforts of volunteers, staff and Spydus library software provider, Civica.
Volunteers put in more than 2,000 hours' work and library staff even more, to scan and file more than 16,000 photographs dating between 1860 and 1970, donated by the late Les Hill, an enthusiastic collector of local history. The collection also contains 500 books, many rare and out of print, and 40 scrapbooks.
Civica's team worked long hours to integrate the newly captured images with existing collections and make the historical treasure trove available online.
The work included automating integration of an Access database holding catalogue details of items in the collection, with the library's online catalogue. This process included careful programming to ensure that cataloguing tags matched field names used in the original indexing database.
Mount Gambier Library also put online 600 photographs marking the centenary of Federation, including new colour pictures taken in 2001 to contrast with black and white photos from 1901. These were all available online by December 6, the day on which the library also launched a pictorial history book – ‘Mount Gambier – Images of a community 1855 to 2004'.
Library Manager Ms Jo Carmody says: “The Spydus people have been terrific in helping us to meet our deadlines. Our decision to go with Spydus Managed Services immediately saved us the huge cost of server space for storing 16,000 high resolution photographs, plus an equal number of thumbnail images.
This was one of the reasons why Council initially opted for Spydus Managed Services, and we are now seeing our monthly payments balanced out by savings on hardware, software upgrades and training, which used to include the cost of flying staff to Melbourne.
Jo adds: “ Having Recently lost a library staff member who was principally responsible for Library IT skills, and he would have been very difficult to replace since it is hard to attract such people to regional areas. Instead, we have been able to employ people with customer service skills, so our customers benefit.”
Jo also compares today's cost of digitising historical records with the $250,000 - $300,000 she was quoted in 1994 when the City of Mount Gambier first committed to preserving and managing the Les Hill photographic collection. Eventually Council paid $21,000 to have the collection photographed and stored in the traditional way, with negatives stored offsite for safety.
It was indexed between 2000 and 2003, so information could be made available to the public via a computer in the local history room. Customers could request folders for viewing, order photocopies from the library, or buy copies of the photos from a local photographer.
By the end of 2003, the Library decided that the cost of scanning had fallen to viable levels. The Rotary Club of Mount Gambier provided a high resolution scanner and the Rotary Club of Adelaide donated $1,000, then volunteers and Library staff began scanning in March 2004.
Their efforts paid quick dividends for a Gold Coast resident who had planned a 4,000 km round trip shortly before December 9 to look at family photographs from the collection.
“You can imagine how pleased he was, when I told him they would soon be available online” says Jo. “We are seeing more and more people use the online service as word of its availability gets around. It has been a hugely successful project, putting in place additional risk management processes while making the collection available to the world via the Internet.”
Recently the library lost a staff member who was principally responsible for Library IT. Now the introduction of Managed Services allows the library to concentrate finite resources back into the customer service area, to the benefit of customers. This factor, combined with the difficulties of attracting professional staff to regional areas, supports the introduction of Managed Services from a business perspective.