OREGON NEWSPAPER INDEXING, YEAR 2
LSTA Grant Peer Evaluation, January 2006
Deanna Iltis, Oregon State Library (recently retired)
The Oregon Newspaper Indexing (ONI) project has been an immense, technological
project to digitize over 800,000 index entries for the Portland Oregonian from 1850 to
1987 and to provide a “universally available web-based searchable index of historic Oregon newspaper content” (grant application, year 2).
The Year 1 grant proposed to: 1) digitize 1930-1987 Oregonian index entries, 2) conduct and post a survey of local Oregon library newspaper microfiche holdings and indexing
files, and 3) study the feasibility of adding historic indexing for other Oregon newspapers.
To my understanding these goals were met during the first year of the project.
The Year 2 grant proposed to: 1) complete the digitization of pre-1930 Oregonian index
entries, and 2) provide a digital index of the Oregonian newspaper back to Dec. 1850.
The comments in this peer evaluation result from a site visit (s.v.) in November 2005 to
the University of Oregon Knight Library, where I discussed the project with Risa Bear,
Project Manager, and Charles Hixson, Project Coordinator, and observed two student
workers inputting index entries in the workroom set aside for the ONI project.
Comments also stem from a telephone update in mid-January 2006 (upd.) and my
ongoing monitoring of the ONI web site.
As background information, Risa explained (s.v.) that a test project was conducted
several years before the beginning of the grant. During slack hours at the Government
Documents reference desk, student workers input index entries for the University of
Oregon student newspaper, the Daily Emerald. Over 100,00 entries were completed during four years, giving project planners solid information about pace and accuracy to
use in proposing the much larger, current LSTA Oregonian project.
Eight objectives/activities were proposed for Year 2 of the ONI grant. The first four
objectives are: including monthly monitoring of digitization of pre-1930 Oregonian
records; continuing to develop methods for improving accuracy and productivity of
record digitization; giving presentations to facilitate information sharing and provide
wider exposure for the index tool; and continuing publication of the online newsletter to
report progress of the project, with the goal of recruiting additional participants.
Additional objectives include: conducting a statewide publicity campaign to accompany
the formal launch of the index site; establishing contacts to study the feasibility of using
the ONI model for other digitized newspaper indexes in Oregon; developing strategies to
enhance awareness of newspaper article document delivery services; and continuing
project management in a way that ensures quality control, effective collaboration among
stakeholders, and the accomplishment of the other objectives.
The impact of the Oregon Newspaper Index will be extremely significant to researchers within Oregon and beyond. As detailed below, the web-based index will begin to remedy the present situation of newspaper indexes locally maintained and housed in libraries around the state.
The project has demonstrated the importance of a dedicated, enthusiastic staff to accomplish an immense data entry project that has proceeded every day for the past two years. Unexpected problems have demonstrated the value of flexibility in problem solving, cooperative teamwork, and strong institutional support in sustaining a long and technically complicated project.
When launched in early Fall 2006, the Oregon Newspaper Index will not only provide an invaluable research tool, but will also have the future potential of forming the strong nucleus of an even larger web-index of most or all of the newspapers of Oregon.
OBJECTIVES, ACTIVITIES, AND RESULTS
Continue monthly monitoring of production work for digitization of pre-1930 Oregonian records to ensure that timeline goals are met.
In my opinion the ONI web site is an exemplary model for a large, complex project. Specifically, on the Project Inventory web page, the data appear to be updated at least monthly by the project manager. For example, on November 7, 2005 the record count was 691,000 (84% complete), while on January 16, 2006 the record count was 712,000 (87% complete). The Project Inventory shows precisely when specific sections of the various Oregonian indexes were started and finished, and which sections are still in
process. Such regular updating and attention to detail is morale-building for staff while it provides absolute clarity to the progress status of the project.
Continue to develop methods for improving accuracy and productivity of record digitization.
Risa talked (s.v.) of programming work by software technician Will Harmon to simplify the data entry form to be used by other libraries, which would encourage their participation. Currently Will is developing an online forms-based data entry interface (upd.). From past experience with the ORULS Project I know that simplification of forms is a strong incentive for participation by libraries with varying degrees of technical expertise.
Delivering presentations to facilitate information sharing and provide wider exposure for the index tool.
Following an Oregon Library Association presentation and a PNLA Quarterly article by
Charles Hixson during Year 1 of the grant, there were additional presentations during thYear 2. On April 7 Charles and Will gave a PowerPoint presentation to the University
of Oregon librarians, and on May 13 Risa gave a presentation at the American Society of
Indexers meeting in Pasadena. Thus, awareness of the project and of the Oregon Newspaper Indexing model has spread throughout the Pacific Northwest and nationally.
In my opinion, the ONI web site also serves as an impressive ongoing presentation of the project. The web site provides a comprehensive view of the current state of newspaper indexing in Oregon. In addition to the prototype Oregon Newspaper Index search screen and instructions for using the “Get the Article!” service, other web pages include a history of Oregon newspapers, a comprehensive survey of newspaper indexes and microform holdings of Oregon libraries, the online project newsletter Oregon Newspaper
Indexer, the statistical Project Inventory, a page about the newsindex-or discussion group,
and a web page acknowledging the many persons who have participated in and given support to the ONI project. The web site has generated inquiries from various parts of Oregon and also California.
Continue publication of the online newsletter to report progress of the project, with the goal of recruiting additional participants.
Four issues of the project’s online newsletter, Oregon Newspaper Indexer, were
published in January, April, June, and October 2005. Each issue contained news of project progress complete with color photos, along with an invitation to join the project’s discussion group, newsindex.or. The January issue also contained an article about liaison
progress with other libraries: the State Library, Multnomah County, Siuslaw Public Library, and Eastern Oregon University, plus inquiries from Western Oregon University and Bend Public Library. I found each issue of the newsletter to be attractively formatted and informative.
Conducting a statewide publicity campaign to accompany the formal launch of the index site.
Because the schedule for project completion has slipped from January to early Fall 2006, the publicity campaign to accompany the formal launch of the web-based Oregon Newspaper Index will necessarily also be postponed until later this year. Judging from past performance by project staff, I have no doubt that the publicity will be thorough and professional.
Establish contacts to study the feasibility of using the ONI model for other digitized newspaper indexes in Oregon.
Risa reported (s.v.) that copies of the ONI software have been given so far to Multnomah County and Siuslaw Public Library. Siuslaw Public Library is ready to use the software to test digitizing the indexing of their newspaper, the Siuslaw News. Multnomah County
is waiting for the new forms-based online interface. Collaterally, there has been ongoing communication with the State Library about digitizing the pre-1987 Oregon Index, their extensive historic name and subject index of Oregon newspaper and periodical articles. A copy of the 1987- electronic file of the Oregon Index has already been given to the ONI project, providing recent indexing of thirteen Oregon newspapers. Earlier, Eugene
Public Library contributed its electronic file of Register Guard indexing. My attempt
here is to show the extent of liaison efforts; the details about who, what, and when are beyond the scope of this peer evaluation, so I defer to the final project report for complete information.
Develop strategies to enhance awareness of newspaper article document delivery services at the University of Oregon library.
Since the Knight Library maintains the master collection of microfilmed Oregon newspapers, the University of Oregon is ready to provide document delivery service for newspaper articles on a sustainable fee basis. On the ONI web site, there is a prototype page for the “Get the Article!” service. I understand (upd.) that programmer Will is current finishing up development of the web interface for this document delivery service.
Continue project management in a way that ensures quality control, effective collaboration among stakeholders, and the accomplishment of the other objectives.
As a peer reviewer, my impression is that project management has been competently and thoroughly done. I will defer to the project manager’s final project report for details on this objective.
During the site visit to the Knight Library I visited the four-computer workroom that has been reserved for use by three student workers and Charles Hixson, who provides training, supervision, and quality control in his position as Project Coordinator. Project Manager Risa Bear has responsibility for the business portion of the project and web page maintenance, plus contributing time for data entry and quality control. Software technician Will Harmon provides programming as needed by the project. The LSTA project pays for a student to perform systems functions so that Will can be released to work for the project when needed. Work has proceeded daily for the past two years.
In his Year 1 evaluation report, Dr. Thomas Edwards eloquently stated the disadvantage to researchers of the current situation where newspaper indexes are maintained in local libraries throughout the state. The goal of the ONI project is to create a “universally available web-based searchable index of historic Oregon newspaper content” (grant
application, year 2). When the web-based Oregon Newspaper Index is formally launched later this year, with the impressive 1850-1987 Oregonian index as its core, the project
goal will have been successfully met.
I certainly agree with Dr. Edwards that it is the daily content of local newspapers that provides the most complete and useful political, economic, and social information about a location. Thus, the digitization of the 1850-1987 indexes of the Portland Oregonian is of
immense value. Not only will all the information be in one universally accessible place,
but the searching capabilities will increase from subject access only, to multi-faceted searching by keyword, subject, date range, and author/byline (with Boolean search capability currently being developed). Not only will the Oregonian index form the
largest and most significant portion of the Oregon Newspaper Index, but the software developed by the ONI project is being made available to libraries throughout the state. Thus, historic and current indexing of other Oregon newspapers may be added to the centralized Oregon Newspaper Index in the future, contingent upon institutional approval and future funding.
Contributions are already arriving. With the addition of Oregon Index files contributed by the State Library, the Oregon Newspaper Index could contain recent indexing for at least sixteen Oregon newspapers. This is a significant beginning toward a possible future goal of collaborating with libraries around the state to provide a comprehensive web-based index of all of the newspapers of the state.
The “Get the Article!” document delivery component of the project will have a definite positive impact on researchers’ access to needed information. I believe the University of Oregon Library deserves recognition and thanks for including this component as a part of the ONI project.
The survey of existing newspaper indexes and microfilm holdings in Oregon libraries was mounted on the ONI web site during Year 1 of the project. Such a survey had never been done before and is a valuable research tool in itself.
In addition, presentations given in the past two years have begun to spread news of the Oregon Newspaper Indexing model within Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, and nationally.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENTS (LESSONS TO BE LEARNED)
Hindsight is cheap at the end of a project. In a technological project it would be beneficial, but rarely possible, to foresee all possible problems and make contingency plans to meet them. In this project there were a few unexpected glitches along the way. I suppose the questions are whether problems could have been anticipated and how they were resolved.
Year 1 began with semi-automated data entry using the pen scanner. As data entry progressed it become apparent that fine and/or faint print, red type, and frequent scanning errors were causing too much time-consuming quality control work. Since the pen scanner was a relatively new technology, it is unclear whether its weaknesses dealing with various historic paper indexes could have been anticipated. What is clear is that the project management team quickly developed Plan B and proceeded, with the effect that the Year 1 deadlines were met. Ironically, at the end of the project Risa reports (upd.) that the pen scanner is again being used successfully for data entry from some of the 1920s Oregonian bound indexes.
My opinion is that careful analysis/planning and strong institutional support are important keys to a project’s success. As I understand the situation, by this past fall the sheer size of the database had overloaded the project’s server so severely that data entry was slowed
dramatically and timelines slipped. Analysis of the problem showed that for the project to continue a new SQL server and additional programming time would be required. Project management met these unexpected needs by flexible problem solving and reallocation of project funds made possible by the committed support of the institution. Could this contingency have been predicted earlier in the project by a thorough analysis of projected data handling needs? Perhaps.
Finally, a funding problem occurred during Year 2. As I understand the situation, because of the complex algorithm for payment of student workers with grant funds plus regular work/study student funds, there was a miscalculation in the amount budgeted for student workers in Year 2. When the problem was belatedly discovered, once again it was solid institutional commitment to the project that led to a solution that has allowed the project to continue until completion later this year. A lesson here might be to check figures carefully and have others double check them before submitting a grant budget. However, once again hindsight is cheap at the end of a project.
A FINAL WORD
The ONI has been an impressive project—much needed, carefully structured, and well
executed. It has been a pleasure for me to become more familiar with the Oregon Newspaper Indexing project and its staff through this peer evaluation.