The Collection · The Project

It’s Done!


The collection is completely digitized and described! We made it!

The Collection · The Project

It Takes a Village to Digitize a Collection

With a mere 30 hours remaining (!) in my internship, I can’t help but reflect (again) on how quickly this project has flown by.

giphy 3.29.19 PM
When I realized how little time I have left

In the approximately 200 hours on-site, the entire collection has been physically reprocessed and scanned; nearly 900 items have been uploaded to SDSU’s iBase; and nearly 250 items have been assigned metadata. This just leaves about 50 more items to be uploaded, and around 700 items to be assigned metadata!

During this time, I have also: gotten lost in the library countless times; been amazed by the beauty of campus; been frustrated by imperfection; been stumped when information eluded my grasp; toured the secrets of the archives; explored the build IT space; raised a fist of protest; accumulated a variety of imagery from the collection; and constantly doubted if I would ever finish this project in time.

Luckily, I was surrounded by the most wonderful group of individuals possible, who only encouraged me to press on.


So,  as I begin my final days in the beauty of Love Library and sunny San Diego, I would like to conclude by offering my sincerest gratitude to everyone who has assisted with this project and helped make it a reality.

To the numerous, intelligent friends I have made: it has been a sincere pleasure making your acquaintance, and I look forward to our paths crossing again.

To the student workers who scanned nearly half the collection: if it weren’t for you, I would still be knee-deep in Box 7, crying.

To the information professionals, such as Katie Rombiles and Arel Lucas, who have given sage advice and words of wisdom: your patience is astounding, your knowledge is endless, and your assistance is calming!

To my caring and supportive supervisors, Lisa Lamont and Amanda Lanthorne: thank you for taking a chance on this Hoosier and encouraging me every step of the way.


Until next time, SCUA and Digital Collections.

The Project

The SDSU Maker Space

Today I worked with a real dummy: IMG_0087

This dress-maker mannequin was an invaluable assistant as the Makerspace Librarian Jenny Welch-Wong and I photographed the non-paper material in the collection. This included T-Shirts, modeled by the above mannequin, as well as hats, patches, keychains, flags, and even a comb!

Photographing these items was a new challenge that stood in contrast to the melodic nature of scanning. Instead of the whirring machine and methodically numbering pages, creating PDF’s, and running text recognition, I was forced to find creative and unique solutions to problems such as insufficient lighting, awkward angles, and reflective surfaces. Although I cannot share the pictures yet, it was a true pleasure to work in “build IT,” the official name for the SDSU Makerspace.

While there, I couldn’t help but poke around and investigate some of the projects in process. Thanks to Jenny Welch-Wong for the tour and explanations!*

The wooden square (left) was created using Carvey. Students write code to tell the machine where to cut, and viola! A similar process is occurring with the card on the right.


There are also numerous crafts based on sewing. To the right is the sewing corner, in which the dress-maker mannequin lives, alongside sewing machines. Below is an example of a project using sewable, conductive thread. Students from middle schools attend workshops in which they learn how to create a circuit using this thread. At the bottom is a sensor which, when covered, causes a light, on the top left, to flash. Students sew this circuit, and paint an image on the reverse. Although not picture, this was an image of a satellite and the sun, so when the satellite was covered, the sun would light up!CircuitFrame

To save the best for last, the majority of the projects in build IT stem from 3D printing. These items are created by the students, and take a variety of shapes: from 3D busts to dinosaurs, from moving gears to SDSU memorabilia, the students appear to have printed everything under the sun!

My two favorite items were, without a doubt, the cutest little octopus and this row of gradient ships (to show how different finishes look!).

The coolest part about this space? Any SDSU student can use it! Although there are time and resource restrictions, it is mostly open, and there are numerous student volunteers to assist!


*As with the archives tour, there is simply too much to describe in one blog post. I have reduced the tour to the items that photographed well.

The Project

The Story of Metadata (As Told Through GIF’s)

Last Friday, I officially uploaded items to the SDSU Digital Collections Database!


The collection, as it currently is in SDSU’s iBase, is only 100 items, most of which are newspapers at the moment. Composed of 10 folders (out of the hundreds) from various boxes, there are also numerous flyers, photographs, and other ephemera.

However, I am taking a moment to celebrate this modest achievement because it feels like a massive step for the project!giphy-1

Although I definitely took some time to enjoy the moment, it was quickly dampened by an aspect of this project I have never officially worked with before…



Lucky for me, though, Arel Lucas, metadata and digital collections specialist a.k.a. metadata extraordinaire, guided me through the early stages of metadata application.

Me, to Arel

Arel had pages and pages of information for me to read: from general metadata rules to a comprehensive chart of iBase’s metadata fields, not to mention the nearly 60 page dictionary of SDSU’s controlled vocabulary.


Although this amount of reading was slightly overwhelming at first, appropriate metadata that is consistent with previous collections is vital to ensuring discoverability of every item in this collection.

The importance of things like capitalization, punctuation, abbreviations, names, places, field format cannot be overstated. And, to ensure Katie, Arel, and Lisa don’t have to work twice as hard to correct my work, the initial round of metadata application needs to be both thorough and accurate.

Although Tyra looks fierce, this is exactly the opposite of what the metadata should look like.

So, at the moment, only about 10% of the total uploaded files have complete metadata– or as complete as it can reasonably be made without overwhelming the keyword and description fields.


Slowly but surely the project is coming along, and eventually I will be able to apply metadata much faster. But, for now, slow and steady is the name of the game.

The Project

To MLS Students

IMG_0007Last week, I sat down with SDSU’s Institutional Repository (IR) Specialist, Katie Romabiles.

As an IR Specialist, Katie manages both internal data as well as external. For example, one of her tasks is to manage and clean metadata from the documents uploaded to SDSU servers by a number of individuals. Additionally, Katie works with database companies, such as ProQuest, to ensure items are properly transferred to SDSU servers with appropriate metadata.

I had entered the interview with a set of questions, mostly to better understand if a position as an IR Specialist could potentially be in my future; however, by the end of the appointment, I had left with a list of invaluable information for current MLS students.

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. The market is competitive, and you may have to work in other positions.
    After receiving her MLS, Katie served as a page at the Coronado Public Library and interned in numerous locations before landing her current job at SDSU.
  2. Be humble. 
    See above! It can be frustrating, feeling you are not using your degree to the fullest extent. But, any and all experience will help round you out as a professional.
  3. But don’t doubt yourself.
    Even if you only meet 60% of “required” qualifications for a job, apply anyways. Some institutions, such as universities, will apply resources to train and teach staff.
  4. Apply to jobs constantly!
    Even if you won’t receive your degree for a few months, apply early and often. Hiring processes can take several months, or even half a year! So get started sooner rather than later.
  5. Learn everything you can in both the degree program and other jobs.
    The field is constantly changing, and roles are ceaselessly evolving. Becoming well-rounded will help you find a job, keep the job, and even negotiate for more responsibilities and pay as you progress.
    Extra tip! Try and learn XML and other digital languages. It is easy to pick up, and can save you time and frustration!
  6. It happens.
    Sometimes, despite working the right positions and achieving phenomenal things, you may not get the dream job; work the jobs you may not think much of (see #1 and #2) until you can get where you want to go.
  7. Don’t put a number on yourself.
    Getting the dream job immediately after you finish your program may not happen; in fact, it is really tough to do! Don’t add extra stress and pressure by thinking you need to get the perfect job right away.
  8. Don’t give up!
    Keep working towards your goal, whatever and wherever that is. Get all of the experience you can, be professional, thoroughly prepare for interviews, and give it your best. You’ll get there!


Katie graduated with her BA in History from SDSU in 2012, and received her MLS in 2016 from San Jose State University. She has worked as SDSU’s IR Specialist since January 2017. 

The Project

Best of the Archives

One of my favorite aspects of this internship, in addition to the wildly fascinating material stored in the discreet archival boxes, is how it’s unique nature allows me to work simultaneously with SCUA and Digital Projects. This affords me the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of individuals as well as explore the offerings of both units.

About a week ago, I was lucky enough to receive a mini-tour of some of the archival holdings of SCUA from Adam Burkhart. Adam has worked with SCUA for several years now, and as a Special Collections Specialist, his knowledge of the collections extends well beyond the finding aids as he has processed numerous collections and designed many exhibits. I had simply asked Adam to show me some of his favorite collections or artifacts, and he did not disappoint.*

His tour progressed chronologically, and began with two of the oldest documents in IMG_4532SCUA holdings. This first (left) is an illuminated manuscript from Italy. It is stored in a plastic sleeve not simply because of it’s age, but also because it is used frequently in teaching. The second (right) is a translation IMG_4531of The History of the Peloponnesian War in German. This item stuck out to me in particular; as a student of the German language, and an MLS student who is all too aware that many early books were printed in Latin, it was terribly exciting to see (and read parts of!) a early German translation of Greek history.

Next on the tour was the Civil War collection. Although less than four cubic feet, this collection contains fascinating items, such as a signed letter from Abraham Lincoln to General Joseph Hooker (below, left) and a bill of sale for a young slave (below, right).

Marian Osgood Hooker, the first woman to climb Mount Whitney, was a physician with a penchant for photography. Born to a wealthy family, Hooker’s photographs, such as those IMG_4540 to the right, often accompanied travel books authored by her mother (although my image has fallen victim to a glare, SCUA has digitized the entire photo album and made it available online here).

Similarly, although several decades before, an unknown artist compiled a sketchbook of their IMG_4533tour through Europe. His journey began in London, with stops in Austria, Germany, and several other countries; the artist captured the beauty of the journey (left) as well as the frustration. Below, he describes wanting to view the Alps, but instead depicts the “utter failure” when his sight was completely obstructed by clouds.


Jumping forward to the Second World War are the papers of Grattan H. McCafferty. After he was taken prisoner in 1942 and forced on the Bataan Death March, McCafferty kept near daily accounts in various journals, such as the one below, until the Japanese surrender in 1945. In order to ensure he could keep his journals and continue his detailed accounts, McCafferty often wrote in sloppy, cramped handwriting, which led Japanese generals to assume it was nonsense. Also, as his supplies would run short near the end of notebooks, McCafferty would also begin to write two lines per each line on the notebook, to save space.


Lastly, Adam showed me a collection to leave a chill in your blood: the Carl Panzram Papers. This collection contains the papers of a career criminal, Carl Panzram. In his handwritten autobiography, which he authored while in jail with the help of the guard Henry Lesser, Panzram claims to have: murdered 21 people; raped thousands of men; and even burglarized the home of President Taft. However, he was not tried for any of these crimes. It was only after he bludgeoned a laundry foreman to death that he was sentenced and hanged for murder in 1930.

The originals of this collection are not available for public use, and require special permission from the Head of SCUA. However, there are digital folders available online.

Although excerpts of his autobiography have been used in books and films about Panzram, it has never been reprinted in full.

And with that last item, our brief tour of SCUA was over! With such a diverse collection of scope, age, and content, it was tough to pick just a few items to write about.^

Thank you again, Adam, for your time as well as for picking such excellent items to share!

*In my excitement, I failed to photograph several items I was shown, such as a mathematical incunable, which was the first to have geometric shapes printed alongside the text, as well as a German guide to discovering and eradicating witches from the 16th century.

^Some of the items excluded, simply for concerns of length, were the Fritzenkotter Papers, the Leon William Collection (who was integral in establishing the trolley system this intern uses to commute), and the Bohmer Collection.

The Project

Time Flies When You’re Scanning!

It seems like just yesterday I began examining the Radial Ephemera and Underground Publications collection, and just a week ago I felt lost in the maze of Love Library… suddenly, it’s seven weeks (!) later, and I feel (almost) like a bona fide Aztec.

Over the past two months, the collection has been physically reprocessed and shuffled between SCUA and Digital Projects as patrons have requested materials and scanning beds have become available. I have had the pleasure of working in two different environments and becoming acquainted with wonderful students and staff in both settings.

The digitization process has been slow, even monotonous at points, yet highly rewarding. I have been able to examine nearly every single item, number files according to a schema I helped devise, experiment with scanning settings and Photoshop tricks, and watch dozens of TED talks during the long shifts.

Recently, I have begun assembling the TIFF files into PDF’s and utilizing optimal character recognition (OCR) to make the images full text searchable. This has been a struggle, as Adobe Acrobat attempts to straighten text; yet with the often crooked documents in the collection, this can skew documents and potentially eliminate text and images. However it is a necessary part of the digitization process that will ultimately ensure the collection is usable.

This week will be my last full week of scanning documents and assembling TIFF’s. Although the collection is just about half digitized, there are other elements of this project that require attention before my internship ends in five short weeks, such as uploading the PDFs to SDSU’s database and assigning appropriate metadata.

I am eager to learn more about the digitization process firsthand, but there is something so comforting about the whir of the scanner in the morning.