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Jim Kroll - Transcript

James Kroll
Manager, Western History & Genealogy, DPL
Interviewed 2/5/2010

-- Beginnings --

[How did you originally become involved?]

The story about the photo-dig program at the Denver Public Library begins with a man by the name of Augie Mastrogiuseppe. He was our photo curator back in the eighties and nineties, and he had this vision at the beginning of the nineties that photo digitization could help in many ways. And so, he went on an exploration. He was fond of trains, and so he never, didn’t fly, he took trains throughout the United States and went to a half a dozen or so institutions looking to see what they had done with digitization, and if he couldn’t get to that institution by train, he took a bus. He came back to Denver with this information that he had assembled, and he wrote the first NEH planning grant, which we received. And from there, the project grew.

Augie recognized that the way we had filed our photographs was very limiting when it came to access. Most of the time we would find an envelope with photographs in it. The envelope would state, in this case, Denver hotels and motels, Oxford Hotel, exterior. What happens with photo digitization is that we are able of course to create wonderful bibliographic records to provide all sorts of additional information as to the architect, the street that this hotel is on, the era when it was built, and so on. And Augie had the vision to know that that was the capability for the photo-dig program. So when he came back to Denver, and he applied for the NEH planning grant, which we received, we were on our way, thanks to his vision. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

-- Challenges --

[What challenges did you face?]

Well, the challenge was, was that there weren’t too many guidelines out there as to how to do this. There weren’t any standards. Dublin Core yet had not been embraced by the world, and so, that’s why our records are done in MARC. And Augie then hired a man by the name of—Raymond Clark, who came in and began to figure out technologically what needed to be done. There was no commercial product to buy for a photo-dig database. So Raymond began to work with the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries to create a program, which is the program that we continue to use to this day. Raymond also understood how do you put together how do you put together all these scanners? How do you get the information from the scanner onto the database? How do you get the metadata into the database? Those things he had to figure out. There was no other way to do it. And so with Augie, Raymond began to put together the program, the technological aspect of the program, so that we could move forward.

Another person involved with the prog—project is Linda Bentley. And Linda figured out how to do the metadata, how to create the standards for the metadata—what was the process that they would use. They began hiring a number of researchers, who would do the research on the photo—on each photograph; the researchers would then hand their work over to a cataloger, and the cataloger would then create the MARC record. From there, the image would go into the photo-dig database—via the technicians, who scanned the photo. At the time, they had to do almost three scans of each photo in order to get different—um—different files set up. An archival file, a thumbnail, and so on. A lot of that is easier to do today, but at the time, it was—it was—very labor intensive. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

-- Hindsight --

[In hindsight what would you have done differently?]

When I entered the profession in the early 80’s, there were no computers. There were no computer catalogs, much less digital materials. There was no internet. One of my favorite stories is when we opened this building in 1995. We had spent months—or I should say, members of our staff spent months—developing a gopher, if anybody remembers what the gopher was. And we were so pleased with ourselves that we had this gopher up and running and we were ready to show our customers when they walked in on opening day.

And lo and behold, the World Wide Web came into existence at exactly the same time, and so when our customers were walking in the building, they didn’t want to know about the—gopher, they wanted to know about the Web. And it caught the staff in some ways by surprise. And on opening day, we were teaching ourselves how to use the Web at the same time we were helping customers. That was a great accomplishment on the part of the staff to figure out how to begin doing that. And, as you know, the Web presented all—a myriad of issues for librarians. Everything from censorship, to access, to should children be allowed to use the Web without a filter? What type of information is available on the Web? How do you organize it? How do you keep your staff trained? Those are issues that librarians and others have been dealing with now for almost 20 years. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

-- Advice --

[What advice would you give to recent graduates?]

Of course back in the nineties, getting a grant just to digitize photographs was very easy compared to today. Then, it was all new technology, it was a new process, the national endowment for the humanities and other foundations were—providing large pots of money to make that happen. As time has gone by, we’ve had to figure out how to become more creative in our grant applications, how to make it not just about photo digitization, but make photo digitization part of a larger project. And the current project that we have though IMLS which called Creating Communities: Digitizing Denver’s Neighborhoods, focuses on creating the stories of seven neighborhoods in Denver using a variety of software and other technological techniques as well as different types of content and different approaches to each of the neighborhoods.

One of the challenges that we are facing has to do with the Rocky Mountain News archives. Scripps has indicated that they want to give those archives to the Denver Public Library, which includes five years of PDFs of the Rocky in—the Rocky photographs going back about twenty years, and the web page from the Rocky as well as—the actual data from the Rocky that you would find on a vendor’s access to the newspaper such as Newsbank or Proquest. All of that data will be coming to the Denver Public Library and we will basically be—own the copyright to that information to all of those images. It’s a huge amount of data, and we have to figure out how we are going to store that data and provide access to the public. [Top] [Back to Interview Breakdown]

July 2012