Sonoma County Library: Making digital collections available to all

Geoffrey Skinner, Cataloging and Metadata Supervising Librarian, and Edy Dawson, Web Programmer Analyst, both from Sonoma County Library, talked to us about the importance of providing digital access to their collections, especially in the light of specific human and natural challenges.

Maintaining access to, and awareness of, the county’s heritage collections

Due to California wildfires, floods, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, Sonoma County Library had only been able to offer intermittent access to its physical collections. Consequently, demand for its digital collections increased significantly, by 155% in the first few months of 2020 alone.

However, their existing digital collections platform was no longer fit-for-purpose, having developed very little in the previous ten years, making it almost impossible for the Library to meet its new objectives in a satisfactory and timely way.

A fully hosted platform, enabling remote asset management and site design

The library chose Quartex for its ability to manage collections and create sites whilst working remotely as a small team – as well as for its flexible architecture, modern and responsive design, deep searching capabilities across audio, video and text, ability to upload metadata-only records, and simple workflows for batch editing.

A further incentive for this forward-looking and innovative organisation was the chance to become the first public library in the US to partner with Quartex and contribute to the platform’s future development.

With Quartex, all of our local digital projects (including digitized archival and special collections materials, our local databases, and the various collections from our partner organizations) can finally be in one place and that has been our goal for many years.

120,000 assets discoverable on Quartex and further projects planned

Over the course of a year, more than 120,000 assets from 57 different collections, largely the library’s own but also from five partner associations, were migrated into Quartex, with more being added as new collections are created.

We wanted to provide patrons with an experience similar to walking through a museum, so we used colourful images as much as possible to give more visual interest and an overall flavour of each collection.

"Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive," said Skinner, "especially in terms of using the platform’s in-built functionality, such as Controlled Vocabularies, to aid discoverability."

Features such as Controlled Vocabularies offer a lot of flexibility as a way of filtering results and linking materials across collections and databases, and between partner collections.

The results speak for themselves: in the first two months alone, daily pageviews increased by 285%.

The team plan to build on key collections including the Sonoma Wine Library as well as develop new resources, such as a local history index and the Sonoma Responds Archive/Archivo de Sonoma Responds, which invites both English and Spanish community contributions that detail life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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