Volume 30, Number 1, Spring 2008

Northwest Ohio Libraries Put Local History Online

Barbara Ruland
NORWELD Oral History Consultant

The Northwest Regional Library System (NORWELD) supports its fifty-three member libraries in northwest Ohio with a wide range of services. Many constituent libraries maintain local history departments, which their patrons prize as valuable resources, and there is continuing interest in making the collections available online. In response, NORWELD is sponsoring or participating in three programs designed to help local libraries make their history departments available via the Internet.

The most recent initiative is Northwest Ohio Narratives, begun in the spring of 2006. NORWELD provides video production services, technical support, and training for member libraries wishing to record oral history interviews with members of their communities. Since the project began, NORWELD has produced more than 110 professional, broadcast-quality, oral-history videos. NORWELD has also transferred dozens of audio recordings to DVD. An 11-minute DVD, which provides an overview of the program, is available from NORWELD for postage and handling by contacting Allan Gray. A pilot program began in the summer of 2007, making the videos available on the Web.

The “My War” Web exhibit, launched to coincide with the PBS broadcast of Ken Burns' documentary, The War, featured residents of six NORWELD communities discussing their own experiences of World War II. The interviews are indexed and can be sorted by topic or participating library. Hundreds of new visitors access the site every month; and, since the site was launched, two more libraries have joined the project. Given the success of the pilot program, NORWELD is now beginning preparations to put the full collection of oral history videos online. We are also offering our video production service to other Ohio libraries on a cost recovery basis.

In 2004, NORWELD began offering members subsidies to join in the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center's obituary index project. Thirty-six libraries from around Ohio are currently participating in the project. The database contains over 800,000 entries and the site gets almost a million hits a month. In 2006, NORWELD began collaborating on an online scrapbook of historical images and documents illustrating the history and development of the northwestern Ohio region formerly known as the Great Black Swamp. The scrapbook currently has more than 1,400 records. The State Library of Ohio funded the project startup, based on a grant written by the Wood County District Public Library in cooperation with NORWELD, Bowling Green State University, and the Wood County Historical Society.

NORWELD is committed to serving its constituent libraries; to developing the region's historical archives; and to making historical information widely available and accessible through appropriate new media technologies.

For more information, contact Barbara Ruland.