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!

The Scene at the Crossroads: A Peek at Baylor’s Presence in the NMAAHC

bgmrp_nmaahc_slideFriends of the blog have long known – since 2013, to be exact – that material from our Black Gospel Music Restoration Project would become part of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). And now, as the museum is set to open its doors on September 24, 2016, we are excited to offer an exclusive look at how those materials are displayed in the museum’s new Musical Crossroads exhibit.

This sneak peek is made possible due to two of Baylor’s own – Dean of Libraries/VP for Information Technology Pattie Orr and Prof. Robert Darden – receiving an invitation to attend a pre-opening event at the NMAAHC on September 17. Pattie and Bob were able to see firsthand how the BGMRP materials were integrated into the exhibits, and Pattie’s husband Steve helpfully shared photographs of the exhibit for this post.

img_6308

Introductory panel for the Musical Crossroads exhibit (Photo courtesy of Steve Orr)

 

Visitors to the NMAAHC will find the story of African Americans and their culture written in ways large and intimate, personal and cultural, and one of the biggest elements of that story is the way music drawn from the black tradition has had a major impact on American society since the earliest roots of our country.

img_6311

Visitors examine a large touchscreen interactive in the Neighborhood Record Store exhibit, NMAAHC (Photo courtesy of Steve Orr)

 

In a section of the exhibit called the Neighborhood Record Store, visitors are presented with a large touchscreen “table” detailing information on the various styles of music embraced by the African American experience.

img_6306

A closer view of the interactive. The disc label for The Mighty Wonders’ “Old Ship of Zion” from the BGMRP is visible in lower left. (Photo courtesy of Steve Orr)

 

Along the bottom of the interactive are a number of musical genres – blues, country, sacred, classical, etc. – that includes a gospel category. Tapping on that tab will pull up information about The Mighty Wonders of Aquasco, Maryland and their song “Old Ship of Zion,” long associated with the BGMRP (and the de facto anthem of the project). Visitors can then hear a sample clip of the audio of “Old Ship,” as well as view a photo of the group.

img_6304

Dean of Libraries/VP for Information Technology Pattie Orr (left) and Prof. Robert Darden (right) view the BGMRP materials in the interactive touchscreen. (Photo courtesy of Steve Orr)

 

img_6305

Closeup of “Old Ship of Zion” information from touchscreen interactive. (Photo courtesy of Steve Orr)

 

Also featured in the exhibit are images of album jackets provided by the project. Visitors can browse through “bins” of sample records in various genres, harkening back to the days when record store customers were spend hours browsing through bins filled with the latest releases.

img_6302

Bob Darden and Pattie Orr stand with a “bin” containing copies of album covers from the BGMRP. (Photo courtesy of Steve Orr)

 

After more than four years of discussions, file sharing, digitization, permissions granting and plenty of logistical conversations, it is truly rewarding to see materials from the BGMRP making their big debut at the NMAAHC. As the project enters its second decade dedicated to collecting, cataloging, preserving and providing access to materials from America’s black gospel music heritage, we are truly grateful to be a part of not only Baylor Nation but, in some small way, the history of the nation itself.


 

For More Information

Read our previous blog post about the partnership with the NMAAHC

Visit the BGMRP homepage

View the BGMRP collection via the Baylor University Libraries Digital Collections

Visit the NMAAHC website

Email us at digitalcollectionsinfo[at]baylor.edu

The Spencer Collection Marches On With 400+ New Titles!

Unlike some of our never-ending projects (ahem, Black Gospel Music Restoration Project, ahem), there are some projects that we’re making slow, steady progress on every day. And that’s why we’re announcing a new batch of items in the Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music – 461 all told!

The items span a century’s worth of song craft from 1845 to the 1950s. There are marches, waltzes, and tons of comedies.

And if you’re in the market for a love song, there are 143 of them ready to inspire even the most hapless of Romeos.

We’re including a gallery of some of our favorite covers here, but be sure to check out the whole collection to find your own favorites. And when you’re on the collection landing page, look for the RSS button to sign up and receive updates whenever we add new items to the collection.

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.42.04 PMThe Bowery by Hoyt & Gaunt, 1933

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.43.22 PM Salut a la France (France Ever Glorious) by Donizetti, 1855

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.45.16 PMThe Man in the Moon is Looking, by Lonsdale & Eaton, 1878

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.46.17 PMThe Della Fox Little Trooper March by Johnson, 1896

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.47.26 PMEv’ry Life Is But A Clock by Skiff & Vynne, 1893

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.48.31 PM Mary Ann Marie from Hoyt’s A Stranger in New York by Hoyt & Stahl, 1898

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 1.50.50 PMThe Little Church Around The Corner by Gray & Carroll, 1913


The Frances G. Spencer Collection of American Popular Sheet Music has nearly 7,000 digital items available from a collection of nearly 30,000 pieces housed in the Crouch Fine Arts Library. See the entire collection here.

 

Documenting 64 Years of Joyful Noise: The School of Music Performances Programs Collection is Complete!

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 3.40.10 PM

Header for Ann Northum’s performance program, March 28, 1950. See the whole program here: http://digitalcollections.baylor.edu/cdm/ref/collection/fa-somprog/id/620.

They were written on typewriters, word processors and laptops. Some used italicized fonts, others used “high tech” typefaces and the most recent ones feature the Baylor University Judge Baylor/Pat Neff Hall wordmark. They could be one page, two pages or dozens. In short, while the School of Music Performances Programs collection may seem like a one-trick pony, there are actually more than 8,000 ways to document and preserve the performances of Baylor’s musically inclined students dating back to 1950.

The completion of this project means 64 years’ worth of music performances are documented online for the first time in Baylor history. Prior to the digital collection’s unveiling, students and scholars had to request bound copies of the original programs – organized by year – and thumb through their pages until they stumbled upon the information they sought. Now, they can instantly discover any number of interesting things within the collection with a simple search, things like:

The number of performances at Roxy Grove Hall since 1950 (4,167 since 1957)

The number of times a student performed Bach’s Fugue in D Major (264 times)

How many performances are attributed to longtime faculty member Helen Ann Shanley (164)

The number of years organist Joyce Jones performed at Baylor during her tenure (1969-2014)

What performance was scheduled for 8:00 PM on September 11, 2001 but was impacted by that day’s terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C. and New York City (“Baroque in the Browning” by Christina Edelen)

And more!

This project came about after a request from our colleagues in the Crouch Fine Arts Library who wanted to find an easier way for music students to access these important – but cumbersome, in their printed form – resources, and we worked for the better part of a year to digitized them, create separate PDFs from the volume-level books, generate original cataloging metadata and generally just push through the time-intensive process of getting them onto the web. The result is an easily searchable, robust collection that details the evolution of musical instruction on our campus dating back to the 1950s, with an aim toward adding each semester’s performance programs as they become available from here on out.

We encourage you to take some time to search through the School of Music Performances Programs collection and see what hidden gems you can find. And if you’d like to embarrass/talk to two of our own staffers – Darryl Stuhr and Stephen Bolech – you can see programs related to their time in the School of Music here and here.

(And as always when we finish a big project: Fire the Cannon!)

Unveiling the Black Gospel Music Restoration Project’s “Wall of Honor”

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.47.44 AMAny project as ambitious as our Black Gospel Music Restoration Project cannot happen in a vacuum, nor can it succeed without the willing hands and open hearts of a broad range of supporters, and after almost a decade’s worth of work toward preserving America’s black gospel heritage, we’ve made significant progress thanks to the support of literally dozens of people.

They are collectors, benefactors, private citizens with small collections to loan, major foundations with capital to invest in the equipment, talent and time it takes to advance the BGMRP from semester to semester. And we thought it’s high time they got some recognition on the project’s website. So, we’re happy to unveil the BGMRP Wall of Honor, a virtual listing of the backers big and small who’ve helped make it a success.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 10.35.25 AM

Click on the image to view the entire Wall of Honor!

Each supporter’s name is placed on a label from a 45 rpm disk from the collection and the whole wall is organized alphabetically. The label associated with each supporter is randomly assigned, hence the quilt-like appearance to the entire Wall.

While it’s only a small token of our appreciation to these fine folks, we hope it helps drive home the importance of community support for projects like the BGMRP. And if you’d like to see your name on the wall – after you’ve loaned/donated materials or supported the project financially – we’ve got plenty of opportunities for you to show your support.

We hope to see the Wall continue to grow as the project continues to flourish, and with each news story, interview, public presentation or one-on-one conversation we have about the BGMRP, we’re seeing its importance and influence spread across the country. And the nice thing about a “virtual” donor wall vs. a physical wall? There’s literally no end to space we can use to feature anyone who shows their support!

The Black Gospel Music Restoration Project is an attempt to catalog, digitize, preserve and promote America’s black gospel music heritage, with a focus on the “Golden Age” of 1945-1975. Learn more about the project, including how you can support our goals, by visiting the project website.