Collections of historical documents from ACU’s library have been digitized and are now available online for public viewing.
Five area libraries included collections: Hardin-Simmons University, McMurry University, Abilene Christian University, Howard Payne University in Brownwood and the Abilene Library Consortium.
ACU was able to include between 12 and 15 collections to be digitized. Along with the Optimist archives, the Prickly Pear and ACU Catalogs from 1906 to 2004 are available. These archives make it possible for viewers to follow historical threads and build an image of ACU in any given year, said Carisse Berryhill, professor of library science and special services librarian.
“It’s great to be able to see what courses were offered, who the faculty was and what the university’s academic requirements were,” Berryhill said.
Although every issue of the Optimist was available for research in hard copy form, the digitization of the Optimist makes it more accessible for students and alumni to view. The issues are fully searchable and can be downloaded as PDF files.
Dr. Kenneth Pybus, associate professor of journalism and mass communication and Optimist adviser, said the digital archives help the Optimist staff to better serve its audience. The archives also give faculty another way to improve the education of journalism students.
“One of the challenges of doing good journalism is understanding things in context,” Pybus said. “We can use this as a resource to help put news in context.”
The Optimist is the record of student journalism and participation, said Berryhill. Students use them often, whether they are researching for a history project or researching where a policy for the student government originated.
“We want to keep archives available to the public to use, but the actual artifacts are very brittle,” Berryhill said. “The digital copies are not only not affected by use and time, they are also fully indexed and searchable.”
The Optimist and Prickly Pear archives are now available online at the Texas Digital Newspaper Program at the University of North Texas website: http://texashistory.unt.edu.
All of the West Texas Digital Archives are available in the Learning Commons at wtda.acl.org. The website will be accessible anywhere early in the spring 2011 semester.
This is one of the ways libraries have to change to accommodate the students of the digital world, Berryhill said.
“Libraries need to reinvent the way material is available. The mission of the library doesn’t change, but the means does.”