Report on The Boston Public Library Free Digitization Program (May 2015)

On May 7, 2015, Library Director Marie Mueller and Trustee Gloria Parkinson met with Jake Sadow, an archivist for the Statewide Digitization Project of the Boston Public Library (BPL). Mr. Sadow explained the BPL digitization program in some detail. Here are the main points of the program:

  1. The BPL will digitize around 15,000 pages or around 500 photos per year at no cost to the organizational owners of the materials (libraries, historical societies, municipalities, etc.).
  2. Through a partnership between the BPL and a nonprofit organization, Digital Commonwealth, the digitized materials then become available for free on the web site (The originals remain the property of the owners of the materials digitized.)
  3. Owners of the materials should pre-catalog the materials to be digitized in a way that makes them easily searchable online.
  4. The BPL provides advice and guidance throughout the process, including what materials would make suitable digitization projects, a template for cataloging, and suggested ways to pre-catalog materials.
  5. The BPL encourages collaborative ventures such as a library, a historical society, and a municipality working together to be able to offer the most online resources possible in a given year. In such an arrangement, each entity would have its annual allowance of free digitization from the BPL (resulting in a cumulative 45,000 pages). Or a historical society might digitize 500 photos and a library might digitize 15,000 pages in the same year, and so forth.
  6. Sadow noted that books are the easiest type of material to digitize and therefore relatively fast. Manuscripts, maps, etc. are more complex and may take more time than books.


Based on what we learned from Mr. Sadow, we recommend the following:


  1. Clinton library enroll in the BPL’s free digitization program.
  2. The first project be the digitization of the library’s collection of Clinton High School Yearbooks. According to Mr. Sadow, yearbooks are straightforward materials to digitize. As a first step, the BFPL would need to review its collection of yearbooks and where any are missing, either in whole or in part, put out a request to the public for the temporary loan of missing or defaced copies.
  3. The BFPL has exploratory discussions with the Clinton Historical Society and the Town of Clinton to asses those parties interest in the BPL’s digitization program and to discover what materials they might be interested in digitizing so as not to duplicate our communal efforts.


Report submitted by Marie Mueller and Gloria Parkinson, May 14, 2015