The Washington State Library (WSL) has launched its new website for the Washington Digital Newspapers program.

Previously accessed via ChronAm viewing software, the Washington State Library sought a new solution that was able to handle the complexities of a large digital newspaper collection.

Washington National Digital Newspaper Project Director Shawn Schollmeyer, describes the challenges they faced:

“Our ChronAm viewing software was based on a different platform than we’re currently using for our business which caused some compatibility problems. Our database and system indexing programs weren’t designed for newspapers, so the system wasn't  robust enough to deliver pages quickly and the older hardware eventually crashed.”

The WSL chose to work with the team at Veridian who specialize in newspaper collections and have managed several significant NDNP projects over the years.

The Veridian platform offered a more stable solution designed specifically for online newspaper collections, and supported the METS/ALTO metadata standard the WSL needed for their newspapers.

Because Veridian came with a cloud-based hosting option, it removed the hardware constraints that the library was facing and ensured the collection was prepared for future growth.

The improved website features new titles in the State Library’s digital newspaper collection, with full-text search of more than 400,000 pages from the State Library’s collection of historic Washington newspapers.

WSL search features
Screenshot of Veridian search features
WSL county browser
Screenshot of Veridian search by county feature

 

Visitors can interact with the collection through Veridian’s user engagement features. Crowd sourced user text correction improves search results on dark or damaged pages, and visitors can attach subject tags to articles, add comments and save their search history for larger research projects.

“I love the option to select the specific titles by region on the front page and the subjects (tags) feature which we can use to create finding aids for popular topics.” says Shawn.

The project took 6 months from signing the contract to going live, including data transfer, site branding and custom feature development.

Veridian engineers harvested the publication metadata from the Library of Congress and added customizations such as the county browser, and a custom publication selector in search forms (with the publications grouped by county).

We asked Shawn how she found the experience working with the Veridian team:

“The Veridian team was very responsive and easy to work with. They checked in on many points during data transfer and patiently answered  many questions about the features and how they worked. They exceeded my expectations.

Despite our near 20 hour time difference, the Veridian team has been great at making our requested changes and updates quickly to prepare for the new site. The level of detail needed to understand the implementation needs was very helpful and enabled us to maintain excellent data integrity in the transfer of our files to the AWS web servers.”

The WSL staff are enjoying positive feedback from users about the improved search features and response times. Just days after launching the site, numbers of registered users were growing, signalling the beginning of an engaged user community.

The Washington State Library was awarded a fourth National Endowment for the Humanities National Digital Newspaper Program grant in 2018 and have a community program that could add up to 100,000 pages per year to the collection.

“This project has been a great way to learn about events and people in our state past and present, as well as meeting the people in our cities who are proud and passionate about their communities.”

This is a library with ambitious goals for growth. With the help of a reliable & stable platform it will be exploring plans for born-digital newspaper preservation in the future.

It was a privilege for the Veridian team to be a part of this project.

Visit the Washington Digital Newspapers website.