Inside the Archives

Inside the Archives – Summer 2017 – Volume VI Number 3

Summer 2017
Volume VI. Number 3.

Summer is a time for reviewing, catching up and planning. Also for rest and relaxation. The Summer Edition of our Newsletter has a lot of that (well, not so much of the rest and relaxation!). Read on!

Summer has been a very busy time at Accessible Archives with our June webinar and the planning for more in the Fall, exhibiting at ALA in Chicago – check out our ALA Raffle Winner below – and the completion of three regions in our acclaimed American County Histories collection – details also below. Demand for the recent additions to our African American Newspapers and Women’s Suffrage collections has been amazing!

In this issue, we present a new article by our guest writer, Jill O’Neill, discussing Discovery Tools in the Library. Check it out as it provides a variety of insights into ways of encouraging students to explore the content of the library’s database offerings.

The goal of the Accessible Archives Newsletter is to keep you informed! Drop us a line and let us know if we are meeting your needs, have an article suggestion, or just to say hello!

Stellar Charleston Advisor Review: African American Newspapers!

Accessible Archives is pleased that a review of our African American Newspapers: The 19th Century collection was selected for inclusion in the inauguration of the new database, “Choice Charleston Advisor (CC Advisor).”  We thank the reviewer, Lauren Stern, SUNY Cortland, for her assessment of one of Accessible Archives’ most popular collections.

This unique collection of African American Newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 19th century and is rich with first–hand reporting on the major events and issues of the day, including slavery and abolition, religion, the Civil War, Presidential and Congressional addresses, business and commodity markets, the humanities, and world travel. The collection also provides a great number of early biographies, vital statistics, essays and editorials, poetry and prose, and advertisements, all of which embody the African-American experience.


Comments from the Review include:

“[the] database provides access to full-text transcriptions and digital scans of primary sources…The included transcription are, overall, of excellent quality, and the user interface is uncluttered and straightforward.”

“…both novice and advanced users will find this collection straightforward to search, browse, and read.”

“The Accessible Archives database emerges as a clear leader in this Area [Library Integration], due to its compatibility with several discovery services and the availability of MARC records and standardized usage statistics.”

Read the full review.

For more information on our African American Newspapers collection —

Discovery Tools: Fostering a New Way of Seeing the Library’s Wealth

Jill O’Neill

Jill O’Neill is the Educational Programs Manager for the National Information Standards Organization (NISO). She has been an active member of the information community for thirty years, most recently managing the professional development programs for NFAIS (National Federation of Advanced Information Services). Her publishing expertise was gained working for such prominent content providers as Elsevier, the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI, now Clarivate Analytics), and John Wiley & Sons. Jill writes for a diverse set of publications, including Information Today and the Scholarly Kitchen blog.

French literary giant Marcel Proust wrote that “the real voyage of discovery consisted not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”.  With the library implementation of discovery services, search has become a mechanism for developing new eyes.

Thousands of libraries worldwide have implemented discovery services in order to streamline their users’ experiences in finding useful and relevant information. When a library licenses a robust discovery tool, such as ExLibris’ Primo or OCLC’s Worldshare, awareness and usage of the high-quality information resources found within that library’s collection are maximized.

According to Marshall Breeding, founder and editor of Library Technology Guides, a discovery service offers “an interface with search and retrieval capabilities” with additional features that allow a user to swiftly discover, navigate to, and access relevant content licensed or owned by the library. What the ordinary library patron does not see is the index that underlays the discovery index that consists of metadata for a massive spectrum of locally and remotely hosted content.

Those encountering a single-search box on a library’s home page will often not recognize the sophistication of the information architecture that is operating. Breeding’s 2017 Library Systems Report, published in American Libraries in May, documents thousands of academic libraries that currently license such products across the globe.

Single Search Box IA State University Library

Single Search Box IA State University Library

The User Experience
The Iowa State University undergraduate working on a paper for a class on labor relations may have decided to focus on the Pullman Strike of 1894. That strike was so violent and so disruptive to the nation’s transportation needs that President Grover Cleveland was obligated to form a National Commission to study both the causes and the consequences of the American Railway Union (ARU) support for and coordination of such a massive work stoppage. Both Eugene Debs, President of the ARU, and George Pullman, President of the Pullman Palace Car Company, were called to testify before that commission.

What queries might such a student think to use in that single search box? She runs the risk of being overwhelmed with results if she uses too broad or too simple a query. Sure enough, this student encounters more than 700 items in running [Pullman strike 1894], a variety of items including books, articles and more granular content characterized as reference entry. Clicking on a link to that granular piece directs the user to a record indicating that it’s drawn from a specialized encyclopedia from a larger virtual library. The user can capture an appropriate citation or click on a link to access the content. Only then does the system seek verification of her right (as an institutional user) to review the licensed material hosted on a vendor’s remote platform.

What if she alters her query a bit? She’s primarily interested in what Eugene Debs said before the Commission in August of that year.

[Debs “National Commission” strike] as a query retrieves a highly relevant result immediately at the top of the result page. A newspaper headline – Debs on The Stand. The Strike Leader Before the Commission. Why the Strike Was Declared!  Clicking through reveals that the material is from The Christian Recorder, a newspaper included in the African American Newspaper Collection from Accessible Archives.

Christian Recorder Record - Discovery Item

Christian Recorder Record – Discovery Item

In this instance, the Iowa State patron clicks on the link and is taken to a transcript of the primary news article from the well-received African-American Newspaper collection hosted by Accessible Archives. The item is precisely what the user is seeking – contemporary coverage of Eugene Debs’ testimony, including the specific quip from Debs in response to one of the commissioners concerned question as to Debs’ views on government ownership of the railroads.

Accessible Archives Debs Record Search

Accessible Archives Debs Record Search

Responds Debs, “I believe that government ownership of railroads is decidedly better than railroads ownership of the government.” It’s a pithy remark and one that may motivate the student to further investigation of her subject.

The Library Experience
Three value-add elements contributed to the ease of retrieval within the discovery service for our user:  The first was the quality of the metadata associated with the retrieved item. In a digital environment, metadata must be accurate and it must be complete. In this context, the headline text is complete, with the publication date and the original source newspaper in which the article was found.

The second value add is the generation of the full-text transcript of the primary source material by Accessible Archives, coding from scanned images of The Christian Recorder utilizing the XML TEI Lite DTD, then keying the text to an accuracy rate of 99.5%, or better.

Third, the complete indexing of that transcript enabled the system’s relevancy algorithms to recognize multiple occurrences of the user’s key search term and rank it as being highly relevant to the query.

When a library is enabling a unified approach to search, one that incorporates owned and licensed content in a variety of formats, the process takes time. Diverse sources of data must conform to specifications from the selected discovery service provider in order to ensure that those resources in which the library has invested are recognized and readily retrieved. When a content producer – such as Accessible Archives – has made substantive efforts toward ensuring that its material is compatible with the major discovery services requirements, that makes the librarian’s task that much easier.

Basic Tweaks and Other Refinements
Is it important that users understand the full scope and depth of the content that they’re searching from that single search box on the library home page? A quick review of library home pages seems to suggest that the jury is still out. The initial presentation in our previous example of a search via Iowa State positioned the single search box above a separate block that broke out content types – article indexes and databases, ejournals, course reserves, etc. – and linked to browsable directory pages. There is no specific indication to the user that searching will encompass all of those content types and formats, although it may be inferred.

Other universities adopt a different approach. The single search box appears, but with tabs so that the user may limit his search to just the library catalog or other resources. In this example from Michigan State University, the labelled tab, SearchPlus, indicates the breadth of the discovery tool although the library provides a LibGuide, as well.

MSU Single Search

MSU Single Search

However, once the user has run the query, there are options for tweaking his search by specifying a preference for seeing only materials that are full-text online or limiting the result to a particular content format such as newspaper articles.

MSU Debs National Commission strike 1894 MSU Libraries

MSU Debs National Commission strike 1894 MSU Libraries

It’s worth noting that the same high-quality metadata from the African-American Newspaper Collection displays as well in a different discovery service here at Michigan State as it did in the example from Iowa State.

A third approach may be seen at the University of Arizona, where the library has chosen to spotlight to include two branded products – Summon (from ProQuest) for their discovery layer and OCLC’s WorldCat Local for the institutional catalog.



Discovery services commonly rely on the harvesting of metadata in creating the central indexes used in search.  Differentiating between the different data sources may increasingly make sense as larger institutional libraries make linked data openly accessible. Open access content from multiple diverse providers is another area of expansion for both libraries and service providers.

Google’s Impact
Research shows that many researchers and students begin their initial forays into a research problem using resources like Google Scholar. In discussing the 2016 US Library Survey results from Ithaka S+R, Christine Wolff-Eisenberg noted that increasingly library directors were aware of the trend. “After faculty members expressed strongly preferring starting their research with specific e-resources and databases in previous cycles of the survey, they now report being equally as likely to begin with a general-purpose search engine as they are with a specific e-resource and database, and are increasingly likely to begin with the library website or catalog.” (see That same library survey shows that, having implemented robust discovery services, library directors are comfortable with that. They know that when researchers do arrive at the library home page, they will readily navigate to much of the high-quality content that is neither discoverable nor accessible from Google.

Stay tuned for our next article on American County Histories in the Fall edition!

ALA Conference: Accessible Archives Raffle Winner Announced!

Sonoma County LibraryAccessible Archives is pleased to announce the winner of our raffle drawing conducted in the exhibit booth at the 2017 American Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago – Sonoma County Library, Santa Rosa, CA, has been drawn as the winner!  They will receive a full one-year subscription to all of the Accessible Archives 18th and 19th century full-text searchable digital collections, as well as the monthly content updates!

The winning entry was submitted by Suzanne Silva, Human Resources Manager.

Our Recently-Added Women’s Suffrage Series Collections!

 Part IV: Western Women’s Suffrage:  

  • The New Citizen, Seattle, WA – October, 1909 – January, 1912
  • Western Woman Voter, Seattle, WA – January, 1911 –  January, 1913

Part V: The Remonstrance

American County Histories Update

American County Histories for The Southeast, The Southwest and The West — ARE NOW COMPLETE!!!  With Ongoing Monthly Updates!

These three regions in our acclaimed American County Histories are now totally complete:  The Southeast comprising: AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, VA & WV; The Southwest comprising: AZ, AR, NM, OK, & TX; and The West comprising: AK, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, & WY. Accessible Archives continues to add new content on a monthly basis, and MARC records are being updated on a regular basis. Content Images for all remaining states will be available by year-end.  For more information on American County Histories.

We Have Updated Our Administrator’s Page!

Being able to reach out to our customers is essential and so we have made some changes to the contacts listed on your Administrator’s Page!  Now when you send us changes to your library’s contacts – we can make them quickly. This change will insure that we will always be up-to-date! Check the contacts listed on your Administrator’s Page and let us know what you think. Also, while you are there, feel free to look at the other benefits that we make available for our customers – MARC records, your COUNTER access, and more.

More Open-Access Collections!

The Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalogue and The Pennsylvania Newspaper Record: Delaware County!

  • The Pennsylvania Genealogical Catalogue provides a listing of marriages, deaths and obituaries, but also includes information about emigration patterns, customs and traditions, important events, medical history, biographical data, and more.
  • The Pennsylvania Newspaper Record documents the move to industrialization from a predominantly agrarian culture established by Quaker farmers in the 18th century. It contains full-text transcriptions of articles, advertisements and vital statistics, providing insight into technology, business activity and material culture in a down-river milling and manufacturing community at the height of the Industrial Revolution.

Achieving Higher Customer Satisfaction Is Our Goal at Accessible Archives

… all of you have been so great to work with. I just created a Sushi account, could not have been easier with your instructions.  Thanks!” – Alice Eng, Electronic Resources Librarian, Wake Forest University

I was talking to the Library Director here at Sewanee this morning, and telling her how much we love your database and knew that they used it as well.” – Gentry Holbert, Director, Library & Instructional Resources, Spring Hill College

…I remain an appreciative customer of Accessible Archives…” – Jack Robertson, Fiske and Marie Kimball Librarian, Jefferson Library at Monticello

The resources you have are very helpful! I just wanted to thank you and thought you should know how useful it is as it’s made collecting information a lot easier.” – Debbie Reynolds, Teacher, The After School Center

New Webinars Are Coming in the Fall! Stay Tuned!

What is COUNTER? (including an update on Release 5) – 11am, October 3, 2017
Accessible Archives
recognizes the importance of usage reporting and we have made a commitment to provide COUNTER compliant usage reporting to our subscribers. Working with Scholarly iQ Accessible Archives provides librarians with access to their COUNTER reports through an intuitive web portal as well as a SUSHI web service for harvesting reports from multiple discovery services. This webinar will also provide an update on COUNTER Release 5. Hosted by Bob Lester, Product Development & Strategy Consultant, Unlimited Priorities, LLC, presenters will include: Lorraine Estelle, COUNTER Project Director, and Stuart Maxwell, Vice President, Business Development, Scholarly iQ.

Text and Data Mining: The New Gold Rush – 11am, November 2, 2017
Explore how text and data mining opens up large and high-quality historical datasets for your users. This webinar will provide an update on how scholars understand content in ways that only computational research makes possible which increases the value of library resources. Hosted by Bob Lester, Product Development & Strategy Consultant, Unlimited Priorities, LLC, presenters will include: Jill O’Neill, Educational Programs Manager, NISO and Darby Orcutt, Assistant Head, Collections & Research Strategy, North Carolina State University Libraries


The NNBL was an important social and economic organization among African Americans in the early years of the twentieth century. Its credo of black self-assurance and intra-racial cooperation drew on a wide segment of the African American community. The local Negro Business League in Washington, D.C., led by Booker T. Washington‘s son-in-law, architect William Sidney Pittman, started publication of The Negro Business League Herald in 1909. This short-lived periodical provides insights into the activities and accomplishment of both the local NNBL office in Washington, D.C. and the organization in general.

Part XIII also includes the post-bellum periodical The Freedmen’s Record

Upcoming Conference Events

Will you be at the Charleston Conference? Lots of new and exciting things are going on at Accessible Archives and we would love to get together and share the news.

We are at Table #32. Let us know and we will make a date!

Charleston Conference 2017

Charleston Conference 2017

 Charleston Gaillard Center
Table #32

© 2017 Accessible Archives, Inc.

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All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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