by Kaye Bennett

Question: What do your Senior Individualized Project (SIP) and the Kalamazoo College class of 1896 yearbook have in common? Answer: Both can now be accessed online via a new digitization project offered by Kalamazoo College's Upjohn Library. Well, first you have to write your SIP and have it accepted. Then it will be scanned and added to the 1,200 other SIPs which have already entered a digital archive called CACHE.

The College ACademic and Historical Experience, explains Stacy Nowicki, Library Director, is the result of a collaboration between Kalamazoo College and the National Institute for Technology in Library Education (NITLE), which has a goal of helping small liberal arts colleges discover innovative uses for technological tools, both inside the classroom and out.

One of the services offered by NITLE is an open-source software, created by MIT, which creates searchable, downloadable PDF files from almost anything the colleges want to enter. Nowicki saw the project as an opportunity to show the world what Kalamazoo College and its students are doing. Kalamazoo College has currently entered more than any of the other 17 colleges using the software, about 3,000 items to date.

Nowicki says Kalamazoo College currently is scanning and storing a variety of documents, including SIPs and all 80 years of the college yearbook, the Boiling Pot, which was published most years between 1896 and 2005.

SIPs: Before the digital age began, only hard copies of student SIPs existed (many of the newer SIPs are kept in both electronic and paper form). Because of the amount of space it took to physically store all those pages, the 12,000 or so SIPS that have been written since the 1960s have historically been stored not in the college library, but in individual departments. Thus, there was no good way to track down a specific project or for future students or researchers to even know it existed.

With CACHE, however, all that is changing. Starting with the smallest departments (music and philosophy), SIPs are being scanned at the Library's Center for New Media Design and added to the online system. Newer SIPs, available electronically, can be entered directly into the system. At that point a quick Google search will find the SIP's title and abstract. Current "K" students, faculty, and staff can immediately access the entire SIP. Outsiders who are interested in the reference are directed to contact the Library. Then, says Nowicki, she and her staff track down the author of the SIP to see if he or she wants access to the whole paper given to the inquirer. If so, the Library complies.

In one instance, such an inquiry had an interesting twist. In the late 1960s, music student William Johnston's SIP concerned an opera titled "Many Moons," by composer Celius Dougherty. Coming across the SIP reference online, the composer's great nephew contacted Nowicki for access to the entire paper. Nowicki found Johnston, who agreed, and the composer's relative was given full access to the SIP. Coincidentally, just a few days later, Nowicki got another call, this time from a graduate student at the University of California Santa Cruz, who was producing "Many Moons." Not only was she able to give the opera group what they asked for, but she also put them in touch with the composer's relative. One happy ending, credit to CACHE.

Yearbooks: One of the most ambitious facets in the CACHE project is the addition of all 80 of the Kalamazoo College yearbooks. But scanning bound books offers a whole different set of challenges. That's when Nowicki called out the big guns, or in this case, the big scanners.

Some of the biggest and the best scanners in the country, fortunately, reside just up the road, in the Edwin E. Meader Laboratory, at the W.E. Upjohn Center for the Study of Geographic Change at Western Michigan University. Dr. David Dickason is the director of the Center.

Nowicki met Dickason in 2009 and sensed the potential tie-in between the CACHE project and the Meader lab's 2-D flatbed scanners, which produce extremely high-definition images using a non-destructive process.

The Meader Center and its equipment, said Dickason, were primarily designed to convert large materials, such as maps,
Coming across the SIP reference online, the composer's great nephew [sought] access to the entire paper.
drawings and plans, safely into a digital format. He points out that making such documents available online not only gives a safe back-up to hard copy materials, but also cuts down on the need to have so many hands touching the documents themselves, which can be extremely harmful to old and fragile paper. Many such documents are extremely valuable, and the Lumiere Technology scanners, along with the center's high security archive and carbon-dioxide based fire suppression system, allows WMU to protect one-of-a-kind documents.

Dickason's department is currently working on a massive project that will showcase its capabilities: scanning 60,000 maps of portions of the US, drawn from sources such as county atlases. When it's complete, the series will offer an interactive look at the nation that is unprecedented in its detail and its accuracy.

Nowicki and Dickason agreed that the Meader lab would be the perfect place to scan Kalamazoo College's yearbooks for the CACHE system. Each book takes a few hours to scan from cover to cover. As each is completed and enters the CACHE database, it becomes available to everyone; unlike SIPs, the yearbooks are accessible in their entirety to the general public. Nowicki sees this as being a boon to college reunion and homecoming planners and attendees, as grads can refresh their college memories and search for photos of their classmates and activities.

Other entries in the CACHE system currently include photos from the college archives and 10 years of athletic statistics, which were provided by Steve Wideen, Sports Information Director. Nowicki says that future plans call for digitizing college catalogs (dating as far back as the mid-1800s), student newspapers, scrapbooks, historical letters and other materials from the Kalamazoo College Archives.

Learn more about CACHE or search its contents.

Stacy Nowicki collects SIPS and scans them. The "big guns," or Lumiere technology scanners, are made available to "K" by the Edwin E. Meader Laboratory, at the W.E. Upjohn Center for the Study of Geographic Change at Western Michigan University

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Mary Griswold on May 18, 2010 at 9:40 am
Great article!
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