Archiving Local Collections Sustainably

While faculty and students will always be at the core of a successful repository program, collections borne out of partnerships with organizations outside campus borders can also provide a rich source of content—often with little to no extra work on the library’s behalf. The University of Iowa’s repository, Iowa Research Online, experienced firsthand just how smooth the process could be through their collaboration with Little Village, a local arts and culture publication that features contributions from many faculty, students, and staff currently or previously affiliated with the University of Iowa.

The free, alternative magazine began publishing and distributing print issues in July 2001. Recognizing Little Village’s cultural importance and deeply ingrained campus connection, University of Iowa Archivist David McCartney began collecting and storing the issues. In 2012, Little Village staff decided to archive digital copies and contacted the library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives about using their scanner. Through this initial conversation, both parties discovered that University of Iowa currently was only one issue shy of having a complete run of Little Village back issues, and the scope of the collaboration quickly expanded. Recognizing the need for long-term preservation but lacking the platform to obtain it, Little Village editors were glad to accept the Libraries’ offer to publish the archives in Iowa Research Online after the missing issue was obtained.

Melody Dworak, a former contributing editor and recent recipient of her MLIS, volunteered to take on the brunt of uploading past issues, configuring metadata, and training other Little Village staff to take on the job when she left. “The process couldn’t have been easier from my perspective,” said Wendy Robertson, Digital Scholarship Librarian, who now rarely needs to intervene in the uploading. “[The partnership] encouraged more interest within the library of how we can work with the community.”

For those libraries looking to seek out their own partnerships, Wendy has this advice: “Our standards when we digitize are different from the way they were doing it. We had to rethink our process so we didn’t get bogged down in the details of scanning, and figure out how we could get the project done in a reasonable way. When partnering with outside organizations, it’s important not to impose your needs on them. If they’re willing to do the work on the parts that are really important to them, let them do it.”

Little Village archives

Little Village archives in Iowa Research Online