State of the Union for the State of the Art: An Update from the Riley Digitization Center

They say life has only two constants: death and taxes. But sometimes “They” forget to add the other immutable law of the universe: change. In any system, there is no such thing as complete static, total immobility, immutability. There’s always some change at work, even if it’s on a molecular level, and given enough time, it will invariably impact everything it touches.

What’s true for the created universe is true for organizations, of course, and that’s why this post exists. In the past few months, there have been changes underway with the team that digitizes, preserves, promotes and provides access to the archival and library holdings of this university. Some are big, others small, but all of them share one common bond: they impact the ongoing work of the men and women who call (or, [spoiler alert] called) the Riley Digitization Center their home.

A New Name

First off, let’s address the most obvious change. The group formerly known as the Digital Projects Group is now the Digital Preservation Services group. The change was made to better reflect the action that is at the core of the work carried out by the DPS’s staff: preserving analog materials in a digital format for long-term access. This change was made during a rebrand of the former Electronic Library (now Library and Academic Technology Services or LATS) which took place last year. While the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections (which are created and maintained by the DPS) will keep their name for the time being, the DPS will be working to rebrand their online presence both on social media and on the Digital Collections site ( in the coming days and months.

New Faces in Familiar Places

The other big changes to the Group Formerly Known as the DPG involve personnel. For some time, Travis Taylor has been part of the DPS team, beginning as a graduate assistant, then a temporary employee and briefly in a dual-reporting position doing audiovisual digitization and monitoring and tracking usage statistics for the various systems administered by LATS. But some internal moves within the LATS structure allowed the DPS to add another full-time position to the team, and Travis has since moved into that spot to serve as a full-time audiovisual digitization specialist alongside long-time employee Stephen Bolech. He is working primarily with the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project’s analog discs but also assists with video digitization and is investigating systems for film digitization as well.

Partnering with the DPS team to take over usage statistics work – and assisting with digitization, quality control and other critical tasks – is Libby Shockley. Libby joined the Digital Library Services and Systems (working under Denyse Rodgers) after serving with the libraries as an Information Specialist in the Library Collections Services department. Libby will work closely with Allyson Riley, who continues in her role as Digitization Coordinator.

A Departure

The final staffing news of note involves our Curator of Digital Collections — me. After working with DPS director Darryl Stuhr for more than 12 years – first as the second (and only additional) full-time staffer and most recently as curator – I left the DPS for a position as Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications for the division of University Libraries and ITS. I am proud to report that my tenure as curator helped grow the Digital Collections from a handful of small collections to a robust repository of almost 500,000 items, including more than 3,000 items in the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, a complete run of the Baylor “Lariat” (the campus newspaper) and more than 70 additional collections. My curation work, which included loading materials into Baylor’s CONTENTdm instance, will continue under Darryl and Metadata Librarian Kara Long.

I will continue my relationship with the DPS in the role of promoting and publicizing the ongoing work of the group, including its established social media channels, ongoing events (like the Voices & Vinyl concert and the Visions of Rapture art exhibit) and in writing grants for use by the DPS in their ongoing projects. The decision to leave my friends and colleagues at the DPS was not an easy one, and being able to maintain these ties to the amazing work being done by this group of talented professionals was one major reason I was able to make the transition with full knowledge that it was the right (if not necessarily easy) choice for me at this stage in my career.

So What’s Next?

The changes will continue for the DPS as it continues to add content to an already-sizable digital collection, with an expected increase in video digitization coming in the near future, as well as the ingestion of additional resources from our campus archival collections. There’s also a change to the appearance of the Digital Collections site on the horizon, as Baylor transitions into CONTENTdm’s mobile/responsive design template, a move that will make browsing our materials on tablets and phones a more intuitive and engaging experience. There might also be new equipment to tell you about soon, the addition of which will allow the DPS to explore digitization in areas where we’ve only previously dabbled.

In short: change is what’s next. It’s unpredictable, it’s sometimes difficult, but it’s always been something the DPS team has handled with skill, ability and foresight.

So let’s look forward together to what changes await, and thanks for being a part of the journey that’s led us to this moment. Here’s to the future.

A Second Helping of Thanksgiving Gratitude Courtesy Rev. Selsus E. Tull

Anyone can post an article about Thanksgiving the week of; what would happen if you got another chance to think about gratitude, thanksgiving and spirituality the week after? To find out, read this guest post by Professional Writing senior Will Overton on the theme of thanksgiving throughout the sermons of Rev. Selsus E. Tull.

A Selsus E. Tull Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been observed in the United States ever since the Pilgrims celebrated their first successful harvest in 1621. However, it was not until Abraham Lincoln was president that it became an officially recognized national holiday. While we are familiar with the usual staples of the holiday, dinner with our families, the Macy’s parade, etc., we are also thankful for what God has provided for us. In a series of sermons, Selsus E. Tull delivers his thoughts on the importance of Thanksgiving and how we should not relegate giving thanks to just one day a year.

Selsus E. Tull was a prolific pastor in the Southern United States in the first half of the twentieth century. Tull preached on many topics over the course of his long and illustrious career, including the importance of giving thanks in our lives. While complete transcripts of Tull’s Thanksgiving sermons do not exist, we are offered a glimpse into his thoughts on the holiday. Even with pieces missing, these sermons are as meaningful today as they were when he first delivered them.

Page one of sermon “Thanksgiving Service 1926”

In his sermon titled “Thanksgiving 1926: A Contrast in Life’s Ideals”, Tull uses Luke 12:16-23 and Psalm 116 as a way to draw a contrast between two men who lived different lifestyles. The man in the Luke verse stores up treasures on Earth after he “yielded an abundant harvest” (Luke 16:16). While he plans to store the grain in his barns for his own use, God warns him that he will die before he can use it. Jesus summarizes the parable by saying “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes” (Luke 16:23). Tull is using this advice to warn his congregation to show thanks to God and store up treasures in heaven instead of earth. If they devote their lives to God and do not store up treasures for themselves on Earth then they will live a rich and fulfilling life.

Psalm 116 is a psalm of thanksgiving often attributed to David. Despite the hardships in his life, he continues to praise the Lord. In contrast to the man in Luke 16, the speaker in Psalm 116 is devoted to the Lord and gives what is owed to him. This is shown in verse 12 where he asks “what shall I return to the Lord for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116). The tone of the Psalm is also more reverential than the parable of the man and his grain. The use of these two verses is meant to draw a comparison between the man who “looked at the harvest” and the man who looked “at the Lord of the harvest.” Tull hopes that the congregation behaves more like the man in Psalm 116 in their daily lives and not just at Thanksgiving.

The entirety of Tull’s notes for a sermon titled “Thanksgiving”

The Tull sermon titled “Thanksgiving” gives its message rather succinctly. Tull wants his audience to know “what to be thankful for”, “when to be thankful” and “how to be thankful.” Those three phrases make up the entirety of this sermon note. While no other information is available about the sermon Tull delivered, his talking points make it clear what he wanted his audience to take away from it.

In “Thanksgiving Service”, Tull talks about the third chapter of Colossians and what Thanksgiving means to Christians. One of the ways that Tull talks about Thanksgiving is by saying it is an obligation that comes out of a blessing. Whenever we feel blessed by something God does for us, we are obliged to give thanks for it. The concept of giving thanks and celebrating Thanksgiving is called “a unique and most commendable custom.” One of the harsher truths Tull brings up is the quality of someone who does not give thanks when they receive a blessing. According to him, ungrateful people are “a blight and a curse” on the world around them. But none of those people are at the service on the day Tull spoke because he feels assured that he is addressing “Christian hearts” who know how to “give thanks.”  This set of sermon notes ends with the beginning of a list that is now incomplete. Whether Tull wrote more or the remainder are lost is unknown. There is no incorporation of verses from Colossians 3, indicating that either the chapter was recited at the start of the sermon or that it was part of the sermon not included in Tull’s notes.

There is another Tull sermon titled “Thanksgiving Service” that finds Tull speaking about Thanksgiving as a “distinctly…American day.” Tull’s assuring his congregation that everything wrong with the world today, 1937 to be precise, is due to the actions of man not God. These words of assurance are true, even if there are some people who would argue against it. Tull delivering this sermon during the Great Depression is his way of reminding the congregation that they should still give thanks, even if they do not have an abundance of earthly goods. The idea that we should give thanks during hard times is especially important today, when it seems like there are more hard times than good. Tull’s words reiterate the notion that giving thanks is not just for when everything is going well in our lives. We should give thanks even when times are rough, if for no other reason to remember what good we do have in our lives.

In his “Thanksgiving 1927” sermon, Tull delivers a memorable quote: “We ought not to live in the past, but the future of no people is safe who forget the past.” Thanksgiving is meant to be a day of remembrance, which is reflected in this sermon. Tull talks about people’s reliance on the Psalms when the Psalms are only concerned with the relationship between God and his people. These sermon notes are interesting because they include both long hand and short hand writing. Tull knew the major points he wanted to touch on, but also jotted down brief examples of giving thanks to help illustrate them.

The “Contentment” sermon has Tull preaching on the subject of finding Contentment in giving thanks. This sermon is important to Tull and his congregation because it was delivered during the Great Depression, though it is never brought up in the sermon.  Instead, he talks about people clamoring for material needs, even when they cannot afford them. Tull makes a lot of strong points in this sermon, particularly about people needing most what the world cannot provide: “peace of mind and contentment of soul.” Tull’s sermon about finding Contentment at Thanksgiving, especially during a time as trying as the Great Depression, is certainly fitting and still applicable today.

Thanksgiving in the year 1942” follows a similar pattern to Tull’s previous sermons. He talks about the meaning of Thanksgiving and relates it to how we should be thankful for what we have. One difference with this sermon is Tull’s opening “sketch of the First Thanksgiving Day.”  Among the Tull sermon notes collected in the archives, this is the first to directly mention the Pilgrims. Tull draws upon the story of the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving as a way of reminding his congregation that the principles and beliefs that America were founded on are tied to the holiday of Thanksgiving.

At the time this sermon was delivered, America was in the midst of fighting in World War Two. Tull directly mentions the war on page five of his notes as a way to tie the current conflict with the American fight for Independence. Men were fighting to protect everything America stood for in the 1940s, just as they did in the American Revolution. In fact, soldiers fighting for “the survival of our American Liberties” is one of the things Tull mentions that his congregation should be thankful for. Besides the obvious tie-in to Thanksgiving, this is a sermon that would only have been heard during wartime. Specifically, the parts about being thankful for men who are fighting to protect the principles of freedom that America was founded on. That’s not to downplay the sermon’s importance in any way, just to point out the type of sermon that major world events like World War Two gave us. Tull’s other sermon notes are not directly about Thanksgiving, but do mention it as a means of talking about the topic of the sermon.

Comparing Tull’s Thanksgiving sermons to the Thanksgiving sermons of George W. Truett reveals a few similar ideas and themes. Both Truett and Tull talk about gratitude and being thankful. Truett even starts his sermon titled “Ingratitude: The Commonest Sin” by talking about the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving. Both pastors share the belief that people should be thankful every day of the year and not just on Thanksgiving. Truett goes on to say that no matter how much we thank God for everything he provides for us, we will never be able to “sufficiently” thank him. The idea that ingratitude and thanklessness is the most common sin amongst humans is interesting because of the implications. Ingratitude is the most common sin because we sometimes forget to appreciate what others do for us and what we have. Some may argue against his claim, but ingratitude can still be seen around the world.

Disc label for November 23, 1941 sermon by Dr. George W. Truett titled “Ingratitude: the Commonest Sin”

Where Tull discusses the act of giving thanks in relation to world events like the Great Depression, World War Two and the significance of the First Thanksgiving, Truett uses real-life stories as examples. Even though Tull and Truett approach the topic of giving thanks from similar points of view, the use of real-life examples in their sermons differs. Because of the way Tull wrote his sermon notes, it is sometimes difficult to see where he made use of the included Bible verses. But they should not be dismissed because of their brevity. We can learn a lot about Tull’s beliefs from his sermon notes and be thankful for what notes of his we do have in the digital collections.








Illustrating a Milestone: 50 Spencer Sheet Music Covers for 50 Percent Online

This blog post was written by Baylor Libraries intern Will Overton. Will is a senior professional writing major from Dickinson, TX working in the Office of Marketing Communication for the Libraries and ITS.

Music has been a part of American culture since the Colonies were founded hundreds of years ago. Many examples of American sheet music dating all the way back to the 1700s are in the process of being made available online in the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music. This physical collection of approximately 30,000 pieces was acquired by Baylor in 1965 and continues to grow. Today, with 16,453 items online, it may seem daunting to browse the collection. In celebration of reaching the halfway point in making these titles available, I have compiled a list of my Top 50 favorite American sheet music covers that are currently available for browsing.





Read All About It: Waco Historic Newspapers Digital Collection Launches

Masthead of the May 28, 1873 issue of the “Waco Daily Advance” newspaper.

Waco’s renaissance as a national name – due largely thanks to our resident “Fixer Uppers” Chip and Joanna Gaines – has done much to elevate the city’s name and reputation in the eyes of a national audience. But for the local audience of the late 1800s and early 1900s, if you wanted to read about the goings-on in “Six Shooter Junction,” (or “Athens on the Brazos” or the “Hub City,” take your choice) you could do so in any one of dozens of different local newspapers.

In today’s one-paper-per-market media climate, it can be hard to believe that there was a time when a city of Waco’s size could support not only multiple titles but multiple daily editions along with a smattering of weekly, monthly and irregularly published titles. The large number of media outlets at the turn of the last century was a significant indicator of Waco’s growing importance to the state and regional economy. For today’s researcher, they present an invaluable resource for daily news, commentary, rumor, social commentary and advertising.

The archival holdings of Baylor’s Texas Collection – a special library dedicated to state, local and Baylor history – include the largest known assemblage of historic Waco newspapers available today. Numbering approximately 21,000 total issues, the collection had previously been accessible to on-site researchers and spans dozens of titles and decades from roughly the Reconstruction Era (1870s) to the end of the “public domain” period (1923).

Now, the Digital Preservation Services team, in partnership with The Texas Collection, is proud to announce the availability of 5,375 issues of this important collection in the new Historic Waco Newspapers digital collection. Currently, there are eight titles available in their entirety:

  • The Artesia
  • The Waco Daily Advance
  • The Day
  • Waco Daily Day Globe
  • Waco Daily Examiner
  • Waco Daily News
  • Waco Evening News
  • Waco Evening Tribune

The digitization process for these materials involves a multi-step procedure starting with a careful organization and inventory of the physical issues; generation of cataloging metadata in a shared spreadsheet; digitization of the materials on one of two large-format friendly scanners (a Cruse CS-285ST large format scanner and a Zeutschel OS14000 A0 format scanner, if you’re curious); and, finally, ingestion of the images and metadata into our digital collections content management system (CONTENTdm).

The total amount of time needed to get all 21,000 issues online depends on a number of factors including availability of student and staff labor and the time-intensive nature of handling the fragile physical materials, but we hope to have every issue of The Texas Collection’s holdings from 1875-1923 online and publicly accessible within the next two years.

For now, we encourage you to head to the collection’s homepage and start your deep dive into this treasure trove of local Waco history. Here’s a fun one to get you started: try searching for the word “shiplap.” Yes, turns out JoJo’s favorite wall covering shows up at least six times in the collection, including this ad from the October 28, 1927 Waco Evening Tribune.

Turns out time is a flat piece of wood used as an interior or exterior cladding, not a circle, after all.


Sadly, the house at 916 Mary Avenue was demolished long ago, but fear not! You can visit the Magnolia Market, just a stone’s throw away, next time you’re in town. Be sure to pick up a t-shirt before you head home.

Special thanks to the staff at The Texas Collection for their care and maintenance of these archival treasures for more than 90  years.

Feeding an Elephant, One Book at a Time: Supporting the Hathi Trust Digital Library

Modern researchers rely on access to information in a manner that was unthinkable less than a generation ago: the Internet, with its light-speed connection to all the resources of the world’s libraries, archives and cultural heritage institutions. But even with the explosive growth in digital collections there remains an untold number of books and other resources that remain difficult to find online. One way to make the job of finding them easier is through aggregator systems that bring together materials from a number of disparate places.

The HathiTrust is one such site. From their website:

HathiTrust is a partnership of academic & research institutions, offering a collection of millions of titles digitized from libraries around the world.

Those digitized titles – numbering more than 14 million as of 2015 – cover an impressive range of topics, time periods and authors. But like so much in life, the items in the HathiTrust are only useful if they’re available. And that means someone has to take the time to ensure the items the site has flagged as being in the public domain actually are, no simple feat when you consider the sheer volume of materials ingested into the system every year.

When Baylor committed to being part of the Copyright Review Management System  World (CRMS-World) team for the HathiTrust, it was with the understanding that we were pledging to review thousands of books and manuscripts to determine their copyright status and whether or not they fell into the category of a public domain work in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. Enter our Electronic Library team, specifically Denyse Rodgers, Darlene Youts and Brenda Anderson.

Denyse was the first Baylor library member to sign on for the project, in 2012; Darlene and Brenda joined in 2014. The initial grant that funded the project expired in February 2016, but the trio of Bears volunteered to keep working on the project through the end of the year on a volunteer basis.

Using a custom web interface developed by HathiTrust, Denyse, Darlene and Brenda spent hundreds of hours reviewing digitized copies of books added to the database from HathiTrust partner institutions. Using a set of criteria provided by the Trust, they reviewed provided metadata records for each book and determined whether or not it met predetermined public domain criteria. Then, they would flag the record in the system and it would join the ranks of the PD or non-PD materials in the HathiTrust catalog.

In toto, the project reviewed more than 305,000 volumes, identifying more than 154,570 as public domain works. Locally, the numbers were:

  • Brenda reviewed 21,011 items, of which 9,807 were PD
  • Denyse reviewed 20,860 items, of which 9,857 were PD
  • Darlene reviewed 7,090 items, of which 3,116 were PD

Perhaps the most exciting result from the project is that our Baylor team – along with teams from Penn State and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – reviewed roughly 1/3 of the entire corpus of works covered during the project’s timeline.

After the project’s completion, Denyse told me, “I believe this was a very worthwhile project because it allowed materials to be made openly accessible that otherwise might not be.  In April 2016, ALA recognized the program with the L. Ray Patterson Copyright Award.  I was pleased to be able to participate in such a worthy effort.”

Billie Peterson, director of Resources and Collection Management Services for the Electronic Library, also praised the project. “From my perspective,” she said, “all of the institutions that participated in both the original CRMS grant and the CRMS World grant enabled opening access to hundreds of thousands of English-language orphaned works contained in the HathiTrust corpus and developed a tested and robust method to determine whether or not English-language orphaned works are actually in the public domain.”

The Baylor team worked on the HathiTrust project in addition to their regular daily work managing library information systems (Denyse), coordinating the usage statistics process (Darlene) and managing the course reserves process (Brenda). As of the Spring 2017 semester, their hard work paid off: thanks to their efforts, the Baylor Libraries had met their commitments and added thousands of titles to the public domain list in the database.

The old joke, of course is that you eat an elephant one bite at a time. But as the efforts of our Electronic Library colleagues show, it takes a steady diet of daily work to feed one.

Thanks for your hard work, and Sic ’em, Denyse, Darlene and Brenda!