cleveland digital public library will offer high-tech scanning for the masses

Next January, Cleveland Public Library (CPL) is scheduled to open the Cleveland Digital Public Library (CDPL) on the third floor of the original portion of the downtown branch. Construction began in July.
The space will be home to four pieces of scanning equipment: a versatile and user-friendly Knowledge Imaging Center (KIC) Scanner, a high-resolution unit suitable for photographs, a high-speed book scanner and a large format scanner that, at approximately 35- by 50-inches, will be able to accommodate maps and other oversized items. All of it will be available to the public, although the more sophisticated units will have limited public hours.
Another key function of the scanners is to digitize CPL's larger items.
"The hope is to find a way to reach behind the locked doors of special collection vaults and library vaults and share these collections more widely through the agency of the Internet," says Chatham Ewing, CPL's digital library strategist.
The project was made possible by approximately $1 million in funding from the Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN) and the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). Per Ewing, the funds were divided between four libraries in four Ohio cities: Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Cincinnati. One of the goals is to make the newly digitized material available to the Ohio Memory project and the emerging Digital Public Library of America.
The area, which will occupy nearly one-fourth of the third floor -- approximately 2,000 square feet -- will be in the space that formerly housed the old multi-media music and CD room. The hallway leading into the new CDPL will feature displays of the physical items that have recently been scanned, those Ewing imagines to essentially be "staff favorites." Other features will include a classroom outfitted with moveable smart boards and a four- by eight-foot touch screen on which scanned collections will be viewable, "in ways that are interesting and fun."
Another goal of the CDPL is to connect with the entire Northeast Ohio region in a lofty sense.
"It's a way for us to strike up some partnerships with local organizations that have historical objects they are interested in stewarding and digitizing," says Ewing, adding that such connections will strengthen Cleveland's cultural heritage community. "We'll be offering digitization services that will enable those partner organizations to take on projects they might not otherwise imagined were possible."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.