WA Secretary of State Blogs

Washington State Library Co-hosts Pacific Northwest Digital Collections Summit

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Washington State Library Co-hosts Pacific Northwest Digital Collections Summit

In March 2015, the Oregon and Washington State Libraries co-hosted a summit of approximately 50 library, archives, and museum professionals to explore avenues for increased collaborative digitization throughout the region. The one-day meeting, held at the Oregon State Library in Salem, Oregon, featured presentations by collaborative projects at local, state, regional, and national levels and allowed participants to discuss topics ranging from leadership and funding of collaborative projects to metadata standards and shared infrastructure for digital projects.

WSL staff representing our Washington Rural Heritage and State Library Digital Collections were on hand to share their projects and experiences.

Learn more about the meeting and read the entire final report here: http://www.oregon.gov/osl/LD/Pages/NWDigSummit.aspx

Below: Explore the digital collections of cultural heritage organizations throughout the region.

Washington library, archives, and museum professionals interested in providing feedback on the report, or participating in future discussions regarding collaborative digitization should contact Evan Robb, Digital Repository Librarian, Washington State Library: [email protected]

Great news for Washington Digital Newspapers!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Great news for Washington Digital Newspapers!


The Washington State Library has been awarded a Veridian Newspaper Conversion Grant to process and present up to 10,000 newspaper images from our Historic Newspapers Collection.  In March we competed against other national and international academic, public and special libraries with digital collections for the opportunity to have the Veridian software company convert our metadata and cloud-host a full-text searchable collection for two years.

We will have new features to explore, such as advanced search techniques, improved search results, comment opportunities and personal search lists! By converting our keyword, subject-based collection of historic newspapers to METS/ALTO metadata standards, a standard approved by Library of Congress for newspapers in their Chronicling America program, this grant will enable us to capture the text from news articles in a form that allows researchers to use advanced search techniques such as proximity search, exact phrases and date ranges to find their favorite topics. It also encourages users to help improve search results with crowd-sourced correction features when poor Optical Character Recognition (OCR) resultKeepLightBurning_Stars occur from smudged or blurry originals.

 The Washington Digital Newspapers program has the largest collection of Washington state and territorial newspapers in the world, but we are still quite shy of having as extensive a digital collection as we have on microfilm. There are also plenty of community newspapers ready to be digitized across the state. This grant will help us compare the best online software features available for newspapers and we will use this experience to determine the future growth of our online newspapers collection for the residents and researchers of Washington.

Progress for Digital Newspapers!!


DL Consulting provides Veridian Software

Here are some examples of their work:

Newspaper collections from our NDNP partners

Library of Virginia

California Digital Newspaper Collection

Non-newspaper collections

Princeton University




From the desk of Shawn Schollmeyer- Washington Digital Newspapers Coordinator

Why Do We Need a State Library?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Institutional Library Services, Library 21 Initiative, News, Public Services, State Library Collections, Washington Talking Book and Braille Library | Comments Off on Why Do We Need a State Library?

Slice of Advocate headerTo quote a prominent library administrator: “Every library is designed to serve a specific community:

  • Public libraries serve the people of a specific city or county.
  • Academic libraries serve the faculty, staff, and students of a specific college or university.
  • School libraries serve the students and teachers of a specific school.
  • Medical libraries serve doctors, nurses, and patients at a specific hospital.
  • Law libraries serve the attorneys and staff of a specific law firm.

Each library is designed to add value to the specific community that it serves.”

The Washington State Library (WSL) is none of the above. Its broad mission is to collect and preserve materials of value for the entire State of Washington.

This theme is developed in the current issue of the WLFFTA newsletter, the Advocate. WLFFTA stands for Washington Library Friends, Foundations, Trustees & Advocates, and is an interest group of the Washington Library Association.

The current issue of the Advocate focuses on the Washington State Library and some of its key services and programs. It also highlights the precarious budget situation in which the State Library currently finds itself. Read the entire newsletter at http://sos.wa.gov/q/AF2014.


Newspaper Discussion: Preservation and Access Issues

Monday, April 22nd, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections, Technology and Resources | Comments Off on Newspaper Discussion: Preservation and Access Issues

From the desk of NDNP Coordinator, Shawn Schollmeyer:  In our NDNP Office located in the basement of Suzzallo Library at the University of Washington we share this insight into the world of newspaper digitization and preservation by guest writer Casey Lansinger. Casey participated as an intern in our program and will be graduating with an MLIS in June 2013.


In July of 2012, I left my sunny and dry hometown of Denver, CO for wet and green Seattle. I  suddenly found myself in a world where drivers are uncomfortably polite, the coffee is understandably strong and where this Colorado girl had to buy her first raincoat and pair of galoshes (yet still manages to get dripping wet with or without them). In Seattle, I would finish up my third and final year at University of Washington’s iSchool, where I am pursuing a Masters in Library and Information Science. My life in Denver, however, was all about journalism and writing. Prior to the big move I had spent the last five years at The Denver Post as an editorial assistant and occasional freelance writer. The connection here is a life-long infatuation with the written word. I’ll admit I did what we were all advised not to do on a Library School application: I explained that part of my wanting to become a librarian is because I am in love with books. They accepted me anyway.

From an early age, I’ve digested everything I could get my hands on; books have introduced me to characters that felt like friends; countless hours have been spent with my nose stuck in anything from embarrassingly trashy tabloid magazines to fascinating social justice articles from Mother Jones; and, of course, newspapers have opened my mind to what really matters to me. I like to highlight favorite passages in books and later transfer those passages to a journal. Or, in an act that tells me I’m turning more and more into my mother, I rip out articles from magazines or newspapers and stow them away for future reference. A big part of the connection for me is the tactile experience of handling the medium in which the written word is upon. I love taking an old book off of a shelf and smelling its musty pages; and, although I hated when it got on my clothing, I secretly loved the charcoal stain newsprint left on my hands while working at the Post. All of these experiences led to my involvement with the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) through the Washington State Library.

When I first heard about NDNP, I envisioned an experience in which I could marry my two career interests: journalism SeattleStar_CSarticleand library science. The obvious draw was the word ‘Newspaper’; the word I was hesitant about, however, was ‘Digital’. Don’t get me wrong, the practicality of digitizing content has not been lost on me, nor has the reasoning behind some news sources going completely digital for that matter; but this doesn’t mean I haven’t been without concern for my beloved “old-fashioned” mediums. However, as a budding librarian in an environment that is experiencing sweeping change, I knew that being a part of NDNP would be an invaluable learning experience for me. I knew there was an entire conversation about digitization that I was missing out on; and here was my chance to be a part of that conversation.

NDNP is a country-wide initiative to digitize historic newspapers between the years 1836 and 1922. The Library of Congress (LOC) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) partnered together to make this project possible. Each state chooses one institution to apply for a grant to be a part of the program; after a grant is awarded, this institution can partner up with other institutions in the state to complete the digitization process. Each state is also responsible for selecting its own newspaper titles. In Washington’s case, Washington State Library and University of Washington have taken the reins. Additionally, such agencies as The Association for African American History and Preservation Research, Seattle Public Library, Washington State University History Department, Everett Public Library and Central Washington University have had representatives on the advisory committee for Washington State. Washington became involved with NDNP in 2008 and, as March, 2013, has contributed over 200,000 pages of historic newspapers to the Library of Congress digital repository that houses the newspaper pages: Chronicling America (chroniclingamerica.loc.gov). Currently, 22 states have contributed newspaper pages to the repository.  At the fingertips of the public (Chronicling America is an open-access repository – meaning free) is news, as it was unfolding, on the sinking of the Titanic, the Great Seattle Fire of 1889 or – a personal favorite – the first Carnegie Library. Or you can read about historic individuals such as Chief Seattle, Buffalo Bill or the Flapper girls. Stories come alive and context is created from these vessels of information.

And so, every Thursday and Friday morning you can find me in the basement of Suzzallo Library (on UW’s Seattle campus) where I perform a small, albeit important, part of the work-flow process in which newspaper pages are taken from microfilm all the way to what the end user sees on the Chronicling America website. I perform processing tasks on the newspaper pages, such as verifying page numbers (VPN) and optical character recognition (OCR) results. OCR consists of scanning the original newspaper page and converting the text to machine-encoded text, so that original pages can be archived as accurately as possible. The processing tasks must adhere to LOC standards and each state must follow very specific technical guidelines for processing pages. Not all of my work has been technical, however; a large part of my involvement with NDNP has been as an active participant in the access vs. preservation debate, a hot topic in the library field right now.

Do we preserve historic newspaper pages or do we digitize them? Who gets to decide what gets saved in its original form and what is discarded? Are people actually accessing original historic newspapers? These are just some of the questions I asked myself as I entered the preservation vs. access debate.  As I first approached the conversation, what I saw was a very black and white issue. I read essays from those that were strictly in favor of preservation, arguing that we have already lost so many valuable historic newspapers therefore making it our duty to preserve those that remain. But then, there is the argument that newspapers take up space and are becoming increasingly inconvenient and expensive to house, making access the most practical solution. One of the reasons this debate is so tricky is that at the heart of the matter is a medium that was never intended for preservation, or access for that matter, in the first place. Publishers in the late 19thand early 20th century certainly didn’t think that librarians in 2013 would be taking efforts to preserve their newspapers; this is evident right down to the medium itself: it tears easily, yellows over time and generally makes for difficulty in preservation.


One of the first questions it is important to pose when discussing this debate is why, with technology available to digitize historical documents, would we want to preserve historic newspapers in the first place? As expressed by my experiences with books, magazines and newspapers, I think there is a certain intrinsic value that can only come from interacting with an original document. An article I read on the subject described it like this: the extrinsic value of a historic document, such as the Declaration of Independence, exists in the information recorded on it; the intrinsic value, however, is the original format independent of the information recorded on it.  Imagine if the Declaration of Independence were somehow damaged or destroyed. The impact would be profound and Americans might feel some sort of personal loss with such destruction. Sure, what is recorded on the Declaration of Independence would never be lost –as it can be found in any history book or through a quick Google search – but the value of the original would be gone forever. I believe the same case can be made for historic newspapers; imagine holding the original paper that contained headlines about the sinking of the Titanic. You could run your fingers over the headline and turn the pages in the very spot where someone in 1912 turned the pages. You can see the pictures and details on the page and could be transported to that day in April of 1912. Does a computer screen provide that?

Having worked in print journalism, I witnessed many news sources switching to an online only format; the reality being that it is possible (though it pains me to say) that future generations will grow up in a world where they’ll have no exposure to printed newspapers. These generations need to know about the advent of the printed newspaper and how this medium swept the nation and created context for the way news is reported today. Shouldn’t we preserve historic newspapers for those generations?

Conversely, while those who are pro-access certainly see the value in historic newspapers, they also see the logistical challenges that preserving newspapers creates: whose responsibility is it to decide what gets saved in original form and who pays the rising costs of doing so? Furthermore, as mentioned above, newspapers pose storage challenges for libraries that, more often than not, have budget and space issues to consider.


I had the opportunity to talk to Kate Leonard, Conservation Supervisor in the Special Collections department at UW Libraries, about this conversation and she brought up a few points that allowed me to look at the debate from a different angle. Kate and I agree on the tactile experience and how it is such a profound part of interacting with a medium, however, she also pointed out this notion of finding historic documents through access that one would otherwise never find. Because some historic newspapers are rare and housed in research libraries across the country, I might not feasibly access an old copy of The Seattle Times in print were it not for digitization. By providing access, we expose individuals to information they may otherwise not have found or may have never even known was out there in the first place.  This aspect of the debate has personally affected me; as I perform my work with NDNP, making OCR corrections here and there on old issues of the 1908 edition of The Seattle Times, I’ve happened across articles about my new surroundings that have provided me with a rich layout of Washington State’s colorful history. I now know about Washington’s road to Statehood in 1889 or the Walla Walla Massacre of 1847 that later led to the Cayuse War between the Cayuse people and local Euro-American settlers. In fact, just the other day my colleague and I were saying that some articles we happen across make us feel like we aren’t so different than the men and women of the early 1900’s. There was an article about Seattle’s terrible traffic, written in The Seattle Time’s 1908 paper, and the last time I checked the traffic in Seattle was still terrible and a topic of constant conversation among residents. Or there are the same sensationalist stories that the media decides is newsworthy enough to devote their attention to over other – often similar – stories; such as the Davis barroom murder trial of 1907, covered extensively in the Wenatchee Daily World.

ReformersDawn_Nov1893Kate also brought to my attention an issue that came up recently in which The Reformer Dawn – the earliest known publication of what eventually became the Ellensburg Dawn, running from November 1893 to January 1894 – posed serious digitization issues. The paper is the size of a pamphlet and has been bound and stitched at the binding to prevent further damage to its already fragile pages and spine. The desire to digitize this paper proved to be dicey, as it would have required unstitching the binding to scan the pages. Thankfully those measures were not taken and Kate and her Special Collections team were able to take digital photos of the paper, which were later uploaded as TIFF files and added to the Chronicling America repository. The Reformer Dawn will also remain as a part of WSL’s permanent digital collection. Because The Reformer Dawn is in danger of being housed in “dark archives” (a dungeon-like place where historic documents go to spend the end of their lives) this is yet another example of access providing individuals a chance to interact with documents they may otherwise never have had the opportunity to do so with.

Given the evidence of both preservation and access providing rich educational experiences for all users, I began to wonder why some present the debate as so black and white. The way I see it, there is so much gray area; a gray area in which we can provide both preservation and access. Some librarians and archivists suggest a model in which responsibility for both original and surrogate documents is distributed among institutions. And isn’t this the very purpose of a library in the first place: to preserve documents that provide the public with lasting value so that future generations can access them, be it in its original or surrogate form?

All of this leads to an increasingly important question: if we know now how much we drastically want to save historic newspapers of the past, what steps are we taking to preserve digital information of the present? After all, building and maintaining a digital repository is a completely different ballgame than preserving old newspaper pages. Each medium has its own benefits and downfalls as it pertains to preservation techniques but, as opposed to newspaper print, building a digital repository is an area of preservation that archivists are still exploring and fine-tuning best practices. Similarly, a digital repository is much different to maintain because digital objects will always need a software environment to render it; newspapers, however, provide unmediated access to content. Important to consider is the way computer systems age much faster than data media; something new is always in the works and we are constantly upgrading.

Today, archivists are implementing a slew of preservation techniques for digital content. In the case of Washington’s involvement with NDNP, we are involved in a work-flow process that takes microfilm to transferable TIFF files and on through a series of processing tasks and quality control checks before we finally send the files, along with the microfilm, to Library of Congress. LOC then uploads these files and now users can access the newspaper pages on Chronicling America. During the processing and quality control checks, we are performing tasks such as text correction, cropping and de-skewing pages and other various measures that will enable the end user to more accurately access pages and read articles. Furthermore, Washington State Library will maintain all of the files we create in their digital collection; making Washington State residents aware of this expanding digital collection is yet another step the library is taking towards providing access.

While I’d certainly never call myself a Luddite, it was a rather big leap to immerse myself in the digitization world. When I approached the project, I wondered if digitizing documents would make originals, at least over time, obsolete; as it turns out, librarians don’t want that at all. They simply want to make access just as important as preservation; they want to provide entry to the all-important grey area: an area where users find both preservation and access. And though I’ll take sipping coffee and dropping muffin crumbs over a daily print newspaper, the efforts LOC and NEH are taking to make historic newspapers available is nothing short of amazing. It is our duty as information professionals to provide access to documents that are rich in value and history, such as newspapers. Just as we take effort today to save papers from the past, so too are we taking efforts to preserve the news we see today on our computer screen, for tomorrow.

Breaking News! New titles for Washington NDNP!

Thursday, March 21st, 2013 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, State Library Collections | Comments Off on Breaking News! New titles for Washington NDNP!

From the desk of Shawn Schollmeyer, NDNP Washington Coordinator

This week the Library of Congress uploaded the next set of our long awaited newspaper titles for the National Digital Newspaper Program. Historic Washington state newspapers can now be searched and viewed on the Chronicling America website.  The added benefit, besides being able to search early newspapers from Washington Territory and early statehood, is each title also includes publication information and a short essay about the paper’s history. Take a scroll through this example from the Aberdeen Herald

aberbeen masthead

Among the titles added this month:

Aberdeen Herald, W.T., 1890-1917                        Adams County News, Ritzville, 1898-1906,

Columbia Courier, Kennewick, 1902-1905                   Kennewick Courier, 1905-1914

Evening Statesman, Walla Walla, 1903-1910               Lynden Tribune, 1908-1922

Newport Miner, 1899-1922                                                Vancouver Independent, 1875-1910

Washington State Journal, Ritzville, 1906-1907        Wenatchee Daily World, 1905-1922

Seattle Star, 1899-02-27 1922-12-30

We are on the third and last grant cycle of this project, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities and Library of Congress.  Approximately two thirds of the states across the country are now participating, contributing over

newspaper trio6 million pages of newspaper content to date. In the west Oregon and California are current participants and over the next few years we should be seeing the contributions of our neighbors, Alaska & Idaho.

Over the next two years we’ll be adding:

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 1876-1900     

Seattle Star, 1918-1922

Morning Olympian, 1876-1922

These newspapers, all in the public domain (pre-1922), are free for public use. Educators, historians, genealogists, students and other members of the public are welcome to use these images for their primary research, history presentations, and educational tools. We encourage you to share the great history of Washington and learn about the development of civics and industry across the great Pacific Northwest.

To learn more about the NDNP program, popular topics, valuable teaching resources (check out NEH’s EDSITEment! page), podcasts and videos, start with a look at the http://www.loc.gov/ndnp website and click on “NDNP Extras.”

WSL Updates for November 24, 2011

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011 Posted in Digital Collections, For Libraries, Grants and Funding, News, Updates | Comments Off on WSL Updates for November 24, 2011

Volume 7, November 24, 2011 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Rand Simmons, Acting Washington State Librarian, and the staff at the Washington State Library wish you and yours a bountiful and happy Thanksgiving holiday!

Topics include:








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New Classics in Washington History

Monday, November 15th, 2010 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | 2 Comments »

pugetsoundargus From the desk of Judy Pitchford

Volume 5, # 2 –  November 2010


Historical Newspapers in Washington


The Puget Sound Argus of Port Townsend (1882-1883) has been added to Washington State Library’s Online Historic Newspapers, available at http://www.sos.wa.gov/history/newspapers_detail.aspx?t=44. The collection now includes approximately nine years of Port Townsend newspapers, ranging from 1875 to 1883. The collection also contains newspapers from ten other Washington cities.

Additional newspapers will be added as soon as indexing is completed. Our volunteer indexers are currently hard at work on the Walla Walla Statesman (1873-1884) and Seattle’s Puget Sound Dispatch (1871-1880). To see our entire Online Historic Newspaper collection, go to http://www.sos.wa.gov/history/newspapers.aspx.




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WSL Updates for August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 Posted in For Libraries, Grants and Funding, News, Training and Continuing Education, Updates | Comments Off on WSL Updates for August 19, 2010

Volume 6, August 19, 2010 for the WSL Updates mailing list

Topics include:








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Digital Updates – Volume 5, #1 – March 2010

Thursday, March 25th, 2010 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public | Comments Off on Digital Updates – Volume 5, #1 – March 2010

Historical Newspapers in Washington

From the desk of Judy Pitchford

The Washington State Library has added an early Snohomish newspaper to its online offerings.  The Northern Star, from 1876-1879, is the library’s latest addition to the Historical Newspapers Online Project.

Classics in Washington History

Under Exploration and Early Travel, Military History, and Natural History

Report on the construction of a military road from Fort Walla-Walla to Fort Benton by John Mullan

This volume contains Captain John Mullan’s report on his survey and construction of the military road from Fort Walla Walla on the Columbia River to Fort Benton on the Missouri. The narrative consists of Mullan’s report as well as letters and reports from his subordinates. It also includes plates of early missions and camps, detailed maps of the routes, and extensive charts of meteorological and astronomical observations.

Under Pioneer Life and Wagon Trains and the Oregon Trail

Reminiscences of an old-timer

George Hunter came west at the age of sixteen, and narrates a life full of adventure and hardship.  He experiences life in the mining camps of northern California and British Columbia, fights in several Indian wars, hunts grizzlies, harvests oysters, and engages in politics; all the while encountering a vast array of western characters.

Under Territorial and State Government

Laws of Washington, 1889-90

Contains the laws and resolutions of the years 1889-90.

Under Exploration and Early Travel

The North West Company  by Gordon Charles Davidson

A history of the North West Company, its role in the fur trade and its relations with the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Under County and Regional History and Pioneer Life

Church and community survey of Pend Oreille County, Washington

This brief pamphlet reports the results of a community and church survey of Pend Oreille County undertaken by the Interchurch World Movement.

Glimpses of pioneer life. A series of biographies, experiences and events intimately concerned with the settlement of Okanogan County, Washington.

In the early 1920’s, the local newspaper wrote and compiled stories of early pioneers in Okanogan County.

New Material for Ellensburg Heritage

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 Posted in Articles, Digital Collections, For Libraries, For the Public, Grants and Funding | Comments Off on New Material for Ellensburg Heritage

Young IdaBeulah T. Johnson Aunty Lucie Resting

Washington Rural Heritage introduced Ellensburg Heritage last year with the stunning Rodeo Collection, documenting 40 years of one of the top 25 rodeos in the country. Their sophomore effort brings us three new collections (and a few more rodeo photographs, too!).

The Kittitas Valley Crossroads Collection contains nearly 200 historic images depicting Indian life in Ellensburg and the surrounding area. It features the work of local photographers as well as a sampling from Eli Emor James, Lee Moorhouse, Vibert Jeffers, and Frank Matsura. The images include portraits of Indians in both traditional and Western dress, photos of pictographs from Rock Island, and scenes of recreation and domestic life.

The Ida Nason Collection is the personal photograph collection of Ellensburg citizen Ida Joseph Nason Aronica. A great-granddaughter of Yakama Chief Owhi, she dedicated her life to the preservation of her native heritage and culture. See images of her weaving and beadwork, family photos – her daughters were Ellensburg Rodeo royalty in 1929, and beautiful portraits of Ida as a young girl and in her later years.

The Fred L. Breckon Historic Portraits Collection is the work of amateur photographer Fred Beckon, an Ellensburg native who captured his fellow citizens in candid shots around town. These portraits date from the early 1940s to 1966 and are accompanied by short biographical information jotted down at the time the photo was taken, giving a very personal glimpse into Ellensburg’s history. Learn more about everyone from a poet to the postmaster.

View Ellensburg Public Library’s entire collection at: http://www.washingtonruralheritage.org/ellensburg. To view their newest 2008 grant material, click here.

Leonard Burrage Shell and bead necklaceHold on to your hat! Cleveland Ka-Mi-Akin