Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Map digitization project @ the Okavango Research Institute Library

Ms Olebogeng Suwe, Assisitant Librarian at ORI
One key challenge faced by librarians in the SCECSAL region is how to ensure long-term preservation and continued access to their special collections. These are in most cases collections of unpublished or grey literature types of information resources, mostly limited in numbers, i.e. only one copy available. Continued handling of these information resources by the users puts them at the risk of being damaged or even lost forever. Therefore, librarians are looking for solutions for long-term preservation of the resources. Today, the solution mostly involves digitization.

A paper on a digitization initiative, presented at the SCECSAL 2014 by Ms Olebogeng Suwe, Assistant Librarian at the Okavango Research Institute (ORI) Library, illustrates the strategies being used to preserve special collections in libraries. The ORI Library, a part of the University of Botswana Libraries, has a priceless collection of maps by Peter Alexander Smith, a naturalist who traversed the Okavango Delta, a major wetland in north-west Botswana, with a very rich flora and fauna. Mr Smith scribbled his observations and notes on 1:50000 topographic maps. The maps have approximately 4500 handwritten annotations of observed flora, fauna, places and water channels within the delta, making them a very rich and rare source of information on the flora and fauna of the Okavango Delta.
Access to these maps is very restricted due to their fragility. Therefore, to enhance access to the maps, the ORI Library decided to digitize them and make them available in digital format. This initiative was carried out in partnership with the Geographic Information Systems Laboratory (GIS lab) of the University of Botswana.

Key outputs of the initiative were the following:
  • The maps have been scanned and imbedded with spatial coordinates using a Geographic Information System (GIS) from the ORI GIS laboratory.
  • Annotations on the map have been cleaned (i.e. verified and checked for errors) and are now stored as a points in a GIS database
  • The images and annotations have converted for Internet access using a GIS internet map server
The above will ensure continued preservation of the maps and enhanced access to these priceless resources in digital format.

Further information on the initiative: Ms Olebogeng Suwe, Assisitant Librarian at ORI, email: lebosue2004@yahoo.com OR osuwe@ori.ub.bw

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