By Erin Vonnahme
This summer, I got a look at Granite Falls Baseball Team’s 1910 lineup, laughed with women cleaning the windows at Darrington Community Hall, and traveled alongside miles and miles (and miles) of riverbank.
Yet most days, I never left the Acquisitions & Cataloging section here at the Service Center. Instead, I was immersed in Digitize Our Community History, a collaborative project between Sno-Isle Libraries, area historical societies and the Everett Herald. It is an online historical photo archive of more than 600 images from Snohomish and Island counties.
I’m entering my second year of the University of Washington’s Master of Library and Information Science program. As part of my studies, I have the chance to do fieldwork to develop the skills I’ve been learning in class. A project like Digitize Our Community History was an obvious choice. I wanted to learn more about digital asset management, which is the practice of wrangling and making useful all the non-print items a library holds. Much as I love the printed word in bound form, I recognize how much digital content from e-books to photography archives will continue to shape library collections.
I also wanted to learn more about cataloging, the organizational practice that allows librarians to make collections as easy to access and navigate as possible for library users. Is a town festival a “fair” or a “carnival”? What would a lifelong resident of Granite Falls call it? How about someone from Edmonds (but by way of the East Coast)? Cataloging underpins the whole library collection. Like any other skill, cataloging takes practice. The goal is to make information easy to find.
This summer, my job was to scan prints and negatives and add those new pictures to the archive along with information that the casual viewer or ardent researcher would find useful. It was satisfying to help create a meaningful, personal, and long-lasting resource. The images donated to this project celebrate our region, revealing the people, locations, and celebrations that make Snohomish and Island counties unique.
Digitize Our Community History is an example of what libraries can do best: work with their communities to support learning and to showcase history while looking toward the future. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.