GAMBIER, Ohio — The library at Kenyon College is helping the Public
Library of Mount Vernon and Knox County to do “historical archaeology.”
what John Chidester, director of the public library, calls the work to
digitize Knox County name and address directories from the public
“It’s going to be great to put these fairly
obscure materials where people can easily access them,” Chidester said.
“A great deal of local history is now obscured because of the changing
of the landscape and the way the topography has been altered. You can
check these directories to find the layout of the city of Mount Vernon’s
This is the first time Kenyon has helped the library in
Mount Vernon digitize something. It is an outgrowth of Professor of
Sociology and Legal Studies Ric Sheffield’s “Community Within” project
to study the lives of African-Americans in Knox County.
In the summer of 2015, a student working eight hours a week began
scanning the name and address directories, some of which are well over a
century old. Many of the directories are in bad shape or are the only
surviving copy of a particular year.
“These are fairly rare
materials,” said Jenna Nolt, Kenyon’s digital initiatives librarian.
“Yeah, the audience for them might be small, but this information could
be really important to someone’s research.”
Kenyon has scanned 33
directories so far, about 75 percent of the directories supplied by the
public library, Nolt said. It takes about four hours to scan one
directory, but then software makes the page image completely searchable
(without a Kenyon student or library staff having to key in any
information). The digitized directories will live on Digital Kenyon.
are also trying to make them searchable as well, which is just as
important as it being digitized and going online. If it’s searchable
then you don’t have to scroll through them to find something,” Chidester
This project is making use of a new book scanner that the Kenyon library acquired last summer.
is in a great position to build these kinds of relationships that are
mutually beneficial to both institutions,” Nolt said.
You don't have permmission to comment, or comments have been turned off for this article.