By Ed Avis
Many libraries are like vaults of history, packed with old books, maps, works of art, and other historic documents. That’s great for preservation of these important items, but like with any other kind of vault, a limited number of people can physically go into a library to look at something.
The Indianapolis Public Library, for example, is working on a project to commemorate the bicentennial of Indiana and Indianapolis, and so is organizing thousands of documents ranging from century-old police records to programs from home tours. The program is called Digitize Indy, and the idea is that the documents will be much more valuable if they’re scanned and made available to the public online.
“Those historic books and other documents are rare, so they didn’t want people touching them anymore,” explains Greg Stewart, owner of Priority Engineering, an Indianapolis reprographics firm and imaging equipment reseller.
A Partner That Serves Others
The library recognized that scanning may not be the best use of staff time, so they brought in a partner to help with that, Crossroads Document Services in Indianapolis. Crossroads Document Services is a division of Easterseals Crossroads, an organization that supports
people with disabilities. The organization trains these individuals how to operate scanners efficiently and how to handle the documents involved, affordably taking that task out of the hands of the client.
Crossroads Document Services had a long history of scanning more typical documents, such as 8.5 x 11 sheets. Scanning books and large, fragile documents presented a different challenge.
“We met the people from Crossroads at a trade show for the Association of County Governments,” Stewart says. “We showed them what a real book scanner could do, and how it could handle the books and other historic items they needed to scan. They wanted a proof of concept, so they gave us a book to scan. We gave the scan back to them, and they showed it to the archivists at the library to make sure it was OK. Once it was approved, we started working with them.”
Priority Engineering provided Crossroads Document Services with three book scanners from Image Access to help with documents that could not be scanned in a conventional scanner. The Image Access scanners are designed to quickly scan books without damaging them.
“They currently have a Bookeye 4V1A, Bookeye 4V2A, and Bookeye 4V4A, so they have small, medium, and large scanners,” Stewart says. “And we’re getting them the Bookeye V135, which can handle extra large books up to 14 inches thick.”
Priority Engineering also trains the individuals at Crossroads how to use the equipment.
“I’ve met a lot of the people in the program, and they each have their unique challenges, but don’t we all?” Stewart says. “The equipment is intuitive and easy to use. We teach the operators how to scan the books, and then, using their software system, how to collect the scans and recombine them and make a digital file of the book.”
According to Mary Jo Gremling, manager of Crossroads Document Services, the scanning work is well suited for her 14 employees.
“About 75 percent of our workforce has some kind of disability,” Gremling explains. “In many cases those disabilities involve mobility. Scanning is a seated job and it works well for someone with limitations in the amount of mobility they have and the amount of energy they can expend.”
The scanning work is an important source of funds for Crossroads, which doesn’t surprise Stewart.
“Book scanning can be very profitable,” Stewart says. “We have some clients who just do that now – they work with corporations, casinos, governments to scan all sorts of books and other large documents. I had one client tell me he made enough money in four days to pay for the scanner!”
Gremling says Digitize Indy has been a fascinating project.
“We have scanned all sorts of documents, from old programs to high school yearbooks to police records,” Gremling explains. “We also have some ledgers from the school system that are about a foot thick, and they require special scanning equipment.”
That’s where the new Bookeye V135 comes into play. Priority is calibrating that scanner now.
Gremling said she and her employees have enjoyed reading some of the ancient documents as they scan them, and often learn a thing or two.
“We were scanning old newsletters from an organization called ScienTech, which is 100 years old,” she says. “They were a group of engineers and scientists who met to discuss different topics; in fact, they still meet. One thing we learned from scanning those old newsletters is that all the arguments we had during this past election are nothing new. The political comments from way back in Roosevelt’s times were so biting that they kind of make us look tame now! So we learn that nothing is new.”