Four Ohio libraries collaborate to digitally preserve and enhance access to historical documents, photographs and other culturally significant materials
Preserving our collective memories for scholars, students, and history enthusiasts today and in the future requires expertise to evaluate their significance and condition, describe and organize them for easy searching, and to protect them from damage and deterioration.  Libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions serve as our Receivers of Memory. But, unlike Lois Lowry's children’s novel The Giver, the role of public institutions that is included in the Library Bill of Rights is to provide access for the interest, information, and enlightenment for everyone.   
In addition to staff expertise, preserving our collective memories also requires expensive equipment and facilities beyond the means of most Ohio libraries and small museums and institutions. In an effort to address these challenges, four public libraries in Ohio are embarking on a collaborative initiative for digitally preserving and enhancing access to historical documents, photographs and other cultural artifacts. 
The Cleveland Public Library, Columbus Metropolitan Library, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, and Toledo-Lucas County Public Library were recently awarded a combined total of $508,457 in federal LSTA funds from the State Library of Ohio, matched with $251,964 from OPLIN (Ohio Public Information Network) to create a network of coordinated Digitization Hubs.  The Digitization Hubs will be regional digitization centers with specialized state-of-the-art technology to digitize and archive, for online access and hardcopy reproduction, rare and culturally significant materials located in their libraries.  Once established, the hubs will also serve other libraries, museums, archives, and local communities. 
“This is an important move toward helping libraries and museums across Ohio digitize unique and historically significant items in their collections, not only to help preserve the materials but also to increase accessibility to these items,” said State Librarian Beverly Cain. “Digital Hubs support the vision of the State Library of Ohio to create a Smarter Ohio where every Ohioan can access the necessary resources to be engaged citizens, excel at their jobs, participate in the workforce, and pursue their passions and interests.”
The goal of the four library partnership is to expand, standardize, and coordinate the digitization programs located in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo, and to develop a statewide program for digitizing and accessing materials of local and state importance. Each of the four libraries have staff expertise, some digitization equipment, and experience in local projects such as the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Virtual Library, Toledo-Lucas County Public Library‘s Images in Time, Cleveland Public Library ‘s Digital Gallery, and Columbus Metropolitan Library‘s Columbus Memory. The partners will build on their experiences to upgrade their labs and coordinate and share processes and procedures at the Digitization Hubs.
“There is a wealth of unique material in Ohio libraries and museums that can only be viewed on site,” explained OPLIN Director Stephen Hedges. “Digitizing these items and then providing an easy way to view them on the Internet would make these pieces of Ohio's heritage accessible to everybody, but this process requires specialized equipment and skilled staff. This project will build regional centers where that equipment and expertise is available to any cultural institution.”
The libraries will use the $760,421 in grant funds for the three year project to purchase equipment and software to create high quality digital images (with associated metadata) of a wide range of materials, and to develop a standard set of policies for digitizing materials gathered from outside the library. Each of the four libraries will contribute to the project with existing staff expertise, logistical support for digitization equipment including trained staff, and operational costs associated with facility space. 
Cleveland Public Library was awarded $189,751 ($108,999 from OPLIN and $80,752 in federal IMLS LSTA funds from the State Library of Ohio). “Cleveland Public Library (CPL) is honored to participate in this statewide digitization initiative,” said CPL’s director, Felton Thomas. “Preserving the history of the area and the Library’s extraordinary collections will be the focus for the Library’s Digital Hub, opening in 2014.”

Columbus Metropolitan Library was awarded $188,219 ($55,355 from OPLIN and $132,864 in federal IMLS LSTA funds from the State Library of Ohio). “At Columbus Metropolitan Library, we serve broad and diverse communities with rich histories,” said CEO Patrick Losinski. “This grant allows us to continue preserving these histories by capturing local artifacts, documents and treasures in a digital format so they remain free and accessible to all.”

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County was awarded $189,464 ($56,600 from OPLIN and $132,864 in federal IMLS LSTA funds from the State Library of Ohio). "Our Library has worked for the past seven years to create digital versions of important and rare documents for researchers.  We are excited that with this grant and our partner libraries, the amount and diversity of available documents will significantly expand and our ability to protect locally important historical documents will be greatly increased," said Kimber Fender, Eva Jane Romaine Coombe Director of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library was awarded $192,987 ($31,010 from OPLIN and $161,977 in federal IMLS LSTA funds from the State Library of Ohio). Clyde Scoles, Director of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, says that preserving local memory is a top priority for the Library. "The resources provided by the grant will allow us to both digitize collections already within the library and also reach out to individuals and community groups. We are pleased to further share the remarkable story of Lucas County and Northwest Ohio."

The full grant proposal (pdf) is posted at