University Libraries - Digital Services
The Digital Services Lab
When people think about libraries, they typically think about stacks of books. But the reality is that today’s libraries are hubs of information — information that comes in a variety of forms and formats. And libraries are not just repositories of information, they can also be active preservers of information and history.
Enter the Digital Services Lab within the University Libraries at the University of Nevada, Reno. This behind-the-scenes department is responsible for digitizing rare and high-value content. In simple terms – they keep precious things safe.
The Digital Services Lab is tasked with digitizing items such as slides, glass negatives, manuscripts, ledgers and photos. These are things that deteriorate quickly and in many cases, the staff of the lab may be the last people to touch these very fragile items. Many of the items they work with are unique and do not exist elsewhere so the preservation of these materials is a critical service and helps keep history accessible.
Once the Digital Services Lab completes a project, the digitized files are packaged with data that make the files searchable and findable. The “packages” are uploaded and become available online, for use by scholars, students and curious, interested folks. Accessing information online is often how people now interact with history and we consider it our privilege and duty to make as much of our collections and other items available as possible.
Necessary Gear to Operate the Digital Services Lab
The Digital Services Lab operates three specialized scanner platforms: the digital transitions batch digitization suite, an overhead book scanner, and the large format scanner.
In 2018, the University Libraries made the Digital Services Lab a priority because of the importance of preserving these valuable materials for current and future generations. We knew we couldn’t afford the best and newest equipment, but we did our research and cobbled together a professional system using repurposed 10-year-old computers and investing nearly $100,000 in the best quality refurbished gear we could find. We worked hard to hit the sweet spot between quality, value, efficiency and life-span.
We hired and trained three students who now are pro’s on the equipment and while gaining valuable work experience, have managed to process almost 8.000 captures just since January 2019. Currently, the lab is working on a variety of projects, including a number of Washoe County records from the late 1800’s into the 1900’s. These records range from registries of branding irons to ledgers in which public officials swore their oaths of service. If you’d like to see one such ledger, check out the video of student worker Isabella explaining the process of capturing a digital image.
How can you help?
Unfortunately, one of our computers is starting to show its age. It’s beginning to stutter under the weight of the 80 megapixel files and we fear its end is near. We have refurbished it as far as technology will allow us and it has sadly reached obsolescence. The software in the lab requires a Mac computer system, which will cost $3,750 to purchase the model required for the lab to continue — uninterrupted.
The new Mac will allow the Digital Services Lab to continue the work of capturing precious pieces of history and making them available to the world. Please help us continue this important work by donating to our crowdfunding campaign today and thank you for supporting the University Libraries!