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Kenyon Librarian Wins Information Technology Award

Kenyon Librarian Wins Information Technology Award

By Sarah Lehr

Meghan Frazer, digital resource librarian, has worked to tell the untold stories of blacks in Knox County to a largely white Kenyon population.

For her work with the Community Within and also with OhioLINK, she received the first annual Rick Peterson Fellowship. The fellowship is co-sponsored by the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE) and the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) in honor of the late librarian Rick Peterson.

The fellowship honors a new-career librarian who has headed a collaborative effort to remedy a problem in the field of information technology services and digital libraries. The fellowship specifically rewards efforts to surpass conventional boundaries of problem-solving, which was one of Peterson’s talents, according to the NITLE website.

“The fellowship recognizes collaboration,” Frazer said. “To me, that’s the key component of any successful job or project … so I’m really honored to receive this particular fellowship because it was in honor of Mr. Peterson, who was such a great collaborator.” As a fellow, Frazer can participate in CLIR’s Digital Library Federation Forum and NITLE’s annual spring symposium.

Frazer’s work on the digital side of both the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK) and the Community Within project helped her earn this honor. OhioLINK is a consortium, born in 1987, that combines materials from 88 Ohio colleges and universities, allowing students access to over 48 million books and other library materials, according to the OhioLINK website. Associate Provost Ric Sheffield created the Community Within project as a way to collect materials related to the black experience in Knox County. Community Within sprang from the 1992-1993 American Studies Senior Seminar taught by Sheffield and Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks.

Frazer said she faced challenges working with the technical side of Community Within. “The DRC [Kenyon’s Digital Resource Commons] is designed for more text-based collections and this [Community Within] is very image-intensive,” she said. “There’s images, there’s video, there’s audio. … The collection itself is amazing. It’s a neat thing to look through.”

Vice President for Library and Information Services Ronald Griggs said, “If you think, well, Knox County, Ohio … was there really a black community? If you start with that question, that’s a good way to show how a community can exist, but be … largely invisible, in the history of a [larger] racist society.”

Frazer started working at Kenyon three years ago, right before receiving her degree in library sciences. “My background was in computer science, so working with collections was sort of a natural fit,” she said. “Work had already begun on a DRC collection … but with the creation of my position, we had more resources available to start building collections.”

“Meghan came to work for us in 2008,” Griggs said. “We needed someone … to help us with the direction that libraries are going to go.”

“I think the students will see more of the DRC in the next year or so,” Frazer said. “There are some new collections coming.” Among these new collections, she said, are past honors thesis papers, which could prove valuable to students looking for examples.

Griggs also spoke about the future of libraries. “We all know that you can buy anything from Amazon, right? So what will distinguish … one library from another? What will be the value of a library?” he said. “[We are] moving from librarians selecting books and putting them on the shelves to taking real, scholarly materials that really aren’t available any other way and making them available online.”

“The coolest part [of both OhioLINK and Community Within] is that materials which might have never seen the light of day are accessible in living rooms,” she said. “Community Within is a local history collection … and someone who moved out of Mount Vernon 30 years ago can log on and see their neighbors and their friends and their family members represented in this collection.”

Kenyon faculty members are currently working on five or six digital library projects, according to Griggs, and Frazer has “been wonderful at initiating” projects of this type. To any interested students, he said, “If these kinds of scholarly activities are of interest to you, we hire a lot of students to work closely with faculty and librarians on digitization projects.”

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