Last week, I closed the chapter on an incredible project that kept me busy for nearly an entire year.  I was honored to be part of the American Printing House for the Blind’s acquisition of the former American Foundation for the Blind M.C. Migel Library.

When APH took this collection over and hired me to help meet their goals of assessing and making accessible the collection I had no idea how much I would learn from the experience.  I may only hit the highlights in this post but as time allows I will attempt to talk about some of the grittier details of the work I performed in this project.

First, let it be said that this was not an individual effort but an effort of a dedicated team at a dedicated company who was very proud to gain a unique physical collection.  I served as the project manager for this work.  (As an aside, over the past two years, I’ve come to  understand that my best quality is to be an excellent Project Manager.)

The very first step was to assess what we had, we started with an inventory, that was less than complete.  We also started with a collection that did not necessarily have everything that the inventory stated we should have.  So shelf reading was a major first task.

The ultimate goal is to digitize as much of the collection as possible, so the assessment was done with that goal in mind. Conditions were checked, minor repairs made as possible.  The collection ranged in dates from the mid-1800’s to 2009 so the condition of the physical collection was varied to say the least.

The collection also had a lot of duplicates.  Our collection retention decision was to retain two copies with an eye to digitization being a primary purpose in reaching this conclusion.  The formats of the material was another challenge in that many delicate items had not been added to the collection in the most appropriate manner for long term preservation.

So once the initial assessment and inventory was complete, the real work began.  We added another warm body to the project and we began the process of sending things to the binder, moving things into more appropriate storage venues and assessing the best method for digitization.

The work was comprehensive and a lot of policy and procedures were the result of my efforts.  Working with this collection gave me a great opportunity for a ground up assessment and a chance to make accessible the collection while thinking about long-term preservation issues.  This was a true comprehensive library building project and I’m proud of the great progress that was made in just under a year’s time.

The accessibility was not just a physical accessibility but it was also related to the selection of an OPAC, the decision on digitization plans, and ultimate end user access.  The  OPAC and the Lyrasis Mass Digitization in conjunction with the Internet Archive were two great strides forward.  Check out some of the titles for yourself.

As with any library, not everything is perfect and there are always multiple factors to consider as you decide on your ultimate products for delivery.  The Migel is not the exception to that rule.  I commend APH on their commitment to this very unique collection and look forward to watching their further progress.

Constance Ard