By Laurie Gemmill, Digital Services Program Manager, PALINET

As a member-owned and governed library network, PALINET has always focused on the development of programs and services to meet member needs. In the digital arena, PALINET initially provided workshops and educational opportunities for members, as well as consulting services on identifying potential collections and developing digital programs.

More recently, our members� needs increased from general digitization information to assistance with the digitization process itself. In response to those needs, PALINET developed and launched the Mass Digitization Collaborative.

The Collaborative is funded by the PALINET membership and supported in part through a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The development of the Collaborative is the first component of PALINET�s collaborative digital collection strategy. The Collaborative�s initial focus is on mass digitization of text, with the first goal the digitization of approximately 60,000 books.


Given the early widespread interest in the program, we realized the need to test the program tenets before opening it up to the full membership. Our first step was to pilot the program with our members.

The pilot institutions included: Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (PA), Goucher College (MD), Independence Seaport Museum (PA), Lancaster County Historical Society (PA), Lycoming College (PA), Paterson Free Public Library (NJ), Penn State University (PA), St. Mary’s College of Maryland, University of Maryland, University of Pittsburgh (PA), University of Scranton (PA), Villanova University (PA), and West Virginia University. They represented a range of institution types (large and small academic libraries, public libraries, historical society, and museum) and varying degrees of digitization expertise. Their reasons for participating and their concerns represented a wide spectrum.

Frances O�Brien, West Virginia University Dean of Libraries, was attracted to the preservation aspect of the program, seeing digitization of rare books as �a way to save fragile and deteriorating materials for future generations of students and scholars.� O�Brien credits PALINET with bringing museums, historical societies, and public and university libraries together for the pilot program, saying, �We learn from each other as we make the libraries� rare and unique treasures available to anyone, anywhere in the world.�

Katherine Ryner, Catalog Librarian & Archivist at St. Mary�s College of Maryland, says �this is the first time where we thought we�d be able to be involved with a digital project, because we�re so small and have less resources financially and technically� and adds, �It�s a good way to go financially, especially for those who don�t have prior knowledge of the software and equipment.�

Rob Weber, Director of Library Services at the Lancaster County Historical Society, delivered their materials in person to the scanning center. �I was really impressed with their efficiency and thoroughness,� Weber says, �with the way that they handled the materials physically and how they paid attention to any concerns that the library had.�

Program Launch

The pilot program tested all elements including selection, transportation, billing, and handling; the participants provided invaluable feedback on the various step and procedures. Once program elements were tested and refined, the program was launched in fall 2008. We are pleased to have a variety of early participants including Elizabethtown College (PA), the Institute for Advanced Study (NJ), Lycoming College (PA), Philadelphia Museum of Art (PA), University of Maryland (MD), University of Pittsburgh (PA), and University of Scranton (PA).

Program Future

Once the mass digitization component is established, we will continue to grow the program by developing additional tools and expanding to formats such as maps, oversize materials and audio and sound files.


To learn more about the Collaborative, please visit the PALINET website at: or contact PALINET�s Digital Services Program Manager Laurie Gemmill at

Diary of the American Revolution by Frank Moore (Scribner, 1859). Contributed by University of Pittsburgh (PA).

Diary of the American Revolution by Frank Moore (Scribner, 1859). Contributed by University of Pittsburgh (PA).