Please note: the following is submitted as an assignment in the Hyperlinked Libraries MOOC (San Jose State University, School of Library & Information Science) and does not form part of the library’s current plans.
1. Identify User Communities – Individuals/organizations: Community of Researchers using City Directories
City directories are often a key component of historical and genealogical research. The Vancouver Public Library’s (VPL) collection of city directories is a highly used resource, available to our community in print, website (limited years) and microfilm. Directories were created by asking the residents/owners of real estate their name, profession, nature of business, etc. The directories would be published with several indexes, including individual’s names, street addresses, company/business names, government offices. In B.C, they can extend from 1890’s to the last editions published in 2002.
A wide cross section of individuals and organizations use city directories: genealogists, genealogy societies, scholars researching development of Vancouver, individuals researching their old(er) home, engineering firms conducting environmental due diligence on property prior to redevelopment, individuals seeking specific names (e.g. family connections, adoption reunion searches, asset reunification for wills/probates), and individuals creating artistic content (e.g. film production company recreating an authentic city block at a point in time, authors seeking information about a city block/building for historical fiction works). Other libraries and archives also hold and use city directories or work on their digitization:
- Family History Centre, Cloverdale Branch, Surrey Public Library
- University of British Columbia (UBC) Special Collections
- UBC Irving K Barber Digital Initiatives Projects
- City of Vancouver Archives
- BC Archives
These communities communicate by traditional methods: email, printed announcements /notices / newsletters, associations, relevant websites and blogs (e.g. BC Genealogical Society). It is possible that some members are not able to communicate with others, either because they don’t know others exist or due to competitive nature of their work (e.g. engineering firms). If a virtual community could be created, members could
- share knowledge of existing city directory sources: location, holdings, access, formats (print, database, microfilm),
- share tips & tricks on using / printing from city directories
- leverage the expertise* of the library`s InfoAction staff who perform fee-based city directory searches on a daily basis. Staff knowledge could be used to assist community members who cannot or do not wish to pay for InfoAction`s fee-based service. *Expertise includes knowledge of abbreviations, years of directories with ADDRESS indexes, streets that disappear and reappear, advising on the comparative speed of completing microfilm searches vs. online searches)
- share different applications of city directories (e.g. following history of advertising by studying ads placed in directories)
- access a much richer collection of resources beyond city directories (e.g. historical buildings, historical photos)
2. Select One Community and Analyze It: The Individual genealogist/researcher
Individual researchers are (mostly) aware that the library holds city directories. Through the virtual community, members could learn more about the range of directory holdings (years held, years not published, years missing) and learn the tricks of using city directories to make their searches more effective and less time consuming. The major improvement would be the additional resources that could be created / linked in the virtual community:
- Digitized* Fire Insurance Maps (*digitization would be a virtual community project): “designed for fire insurance assessment, the color-coded maps relate the location and use of buildings, as well as the materials employed in their construction and indicate which city utilities (water and fire service)–were available”, Digital Library of Georgia). Fire Insurance Maps are a premium resource, highly valued for their factual illustration of a city’s development, but patrons cannot photocopy due to their fragile nature.
- Aerial Photo collection held at University of British Columbia (UBC) Dept. of Geography and also available through GeoBC
- Location and accessibilty of other city directory collections in local municipal archives, e.g. City of Surrey, City of Victoria
- Vancouver Building Register* (produced by VPL): includes notes on construction, ownership, newspaper articles, historical photos
- Historical Photo Collection* (produced by VPL) (*in addition to the library’s website, some images are also accessible through Flickr Commons)
- City of Vancouver Archives: additional tools/content to identify construction date of buildings such as ‘Water Service Records’, ‘Building Permits’, ‘historical photographs’
- City of Vancouver Archives Building Permits (pre-1929)are also accessible through the Historic Vancouver Building Permits Database Project Pre-1929 produced by the Heritage Vancouver Society
- City of Vancouver Archives historical photos accessible through HistoryPin and Flickr (in addition to the City Archives’ website)
- Heritage Buildings Registers e.g. City of Vancouver
- VPL’s genealogy collections including B.C. birth and death registrations, federal census records, and no cost access* to the Ancestry.ca database (*due to licensing restrictions, access is only available through computers inside library branches)
- Links to other local relevant blogs and websites (e.g. http://vancouverarchives.ca/, http://www.bcgs.ca/)
Creating the Virtual Community; Required Resources (& No Limits!)
Ideal Project: Create a webspace similar to the ChicagoAncestors website and the Dok Delft Heritage Browser
- provide easy access to existing resources (e.g. city directories currently online, historical photos)
- allow/provide for sharing tools such as blogs, wikis
- allow the addition of significant quantities of image content (i.e. fire insurance maps)
- allow communication/sharing between community members
- allow community members to contribute their stories, photos
- allow community members to create their own links between the resources that are most useful to their personal history
- project coordinator: librarian, 6 months full time during intial setup phase, followed by part-time (.50) for 6 months
- graphics technician to work on interface – (part time for initial phase of project, perhaps 3 months)
- systems staff member (for back end technology – part/time for 6 -12 months)
- library technician: full time basis for the first 6-12 months – this depends on quantity/complexity of additional resources that the library contributes, the amount of digitization required and the needs of community members. After the virtual community is established and populated with resources currently identified, position will shift to part-time (.66) to monitor virtual community, seek out relevant content for future digitization, etc.
Webspace and domain
Location/management/control of webspace may require diplomacy, patience and creative negotiations. The library controls/produces all web content related to the city directories and historical collections. Currently the electronic tools that patrons can use to contribute/ communicate to the library are: email, Facebook, Twitter and library catalogue (OPAC allows patrons’ reviews, comments on specific items). The project coodinator will need to consult and collaborate with staff in Special Collections, Learning Services, Web Services and Systems Services.
Fire Insurance Maps Requirements
additional resources/expertise will be needed to digitize fire insurance maps (e.g. better digital camera, dedicated map table, seeking advice from institutions* that have already digitized their collection: University of North Carolina, University of Florida, University of Georgia)
Access to City of Vancouver Archives
- historical content that adds to city directories collection, e.g. building permits, water service records, historical photographs
- to link from their online holdings to our new virtual community
Cooperation of City of Vancouver computer systems and City Archives Staff
Cooperation of the Heritage Vancouver Society to allow links to Historic Vancouver Building Permits Database Project Pre-1929
Cooperation/consultation with UBC Aerial Photos Collection and the BC government agency, GeoBC
Islandora http://islandora.ca/: open-source software framework designed to help institutions and organizations and their audiences collaboratively manage, and discover digital assets using a best-practices framework. Built on a base of Drupal*, Fedora, and Solr (*Drupal used by The Newberry Library for development of ChicagoAncestors.org).
Chicago Ancestors.org (The Newberry Library) http://chicagoancestors.org/ Fully accessible via the Internet, includes these resources:
- Chicago city directories, including business and social directories
- Fire insurance maps
- Street Name Changes, street renumbering
- Architecture & Building History
- AND the ability for users to add their own photos, stories and comments
Platform/Technology: The Chicago Technology Cooperative created the technical design; the site uses Drupal, an open-source content management platform.
Community Sites: http://www.communitysites.co.uk/category_id__65_path__0p48p.aspx Community archive and heritage websites that encourage your visitors to add photos, memories and historical information, e.g. ‘living history’ of Brighton & Hove in the U.K. which encourages community contributions Flickr Commons http://www.flickr.com/commons
Our Town Stories (Edinburgh Libraries): http://www.ourtownstories.co.uk/overview/ the plotting of historical photos and stories on a virtual map, features resources held by the library service, but library users can also contribute to the map. Navigate the map via a sliding timeline bar, or click on pointers on the map that open up the images and stories. Once you’ve opened up an old photograph, click on the sliding bar above it and watch the image fade from view into an overlaid shot taken from the same perspective but from the modern day. (http://uklibchat.wordpress.com/2012/11/30/feature-01-innovative-use-of-technology-in-libraries/) See also: http://www.collectionslink.org.uk/openculture-2013/1845-edinburgh-libraries-and-information-services
NOTE: In addition to the library website, VPL currently uses FlickrCommons to upload some historical photos (after confirming that the photo is in public domain or the library owns the copyright). FlickrCommons requires that all contributed photos be identified as “no known copyright restrictions”. If the new webspace does accept members’ photos, an additional process/tool would be required to determine copyright and to host the images. This could also include additional staff time.
3. Engagement Plan
The Project Coordinator would contact a wide variety of individuals and organizations:
- Organizations: VPL Special Collections, Surrey Public Library Family History Centre, BC Genealogy Society, BC Historical Society, Vancouver Historical Society other local history societies, BC Archives, local municipal archives, and other public libraries in the Greater Vancouver area as most libraries deal with genealogy research questions
- Instructors/professors teaching Canadian/local history at academic institutions in Greater Vancouver area
- local history websites (e.g. http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/)
- individuals who have registered for VPL’s genealogy workshops
- researchers registered as ‘Independent Search Agents’ with the BC Archives
The coordinator would make the initial contact by email, and then followup with telephone call to explain the potential of the virtual community. The coordinator would emphasize that the webspace provides access to additional resources online that may have only been available in print format before, benefits of remote access, ability to share knowledge with and learn from others in the community. Also, if numerous groups come together to create a single digital access point they all benefit from the decreased labour costs of creating this resource.
The coordinator would emphasize that the library brings a wealth of resources to the virtual community but these resources are most valued when they are made accessible and they are used to explore and explain a city’s past . The library needs community members to use the resources and create their own links (both literal and figurative) between people, between neighbourhoods, and between communities. The Library and the Community will be partners in creating an enriched virtual community that opens doors to electronic resources and encourages members to add their own personal stories.