Outcome 5a

Apply marketing and/or advocacy principles to demonstrate and promote the value of libraries and information agencies.

For LIS 759, Digital Libraries, our final project was to create a grant proposal that could be submitted to the Institute of Museum and Library Service’s National Leadership Grants for Libraries program. The proposal was to relate to digital libraries somehow, of course, and we were challenged to make the proposal hew as closely as possible to the requirements for the actual grant. From the IMLS website:

The goals for this program are to generate projects of national impact that:

  • Build the workforce and institutional capacity for managing the national information infrastructure and serving the information and education needs of the public.
  • Build the capacity of libraries and archives to lead and contribute to efforts that improve community well-being and strengthen civic engagement.
  • Improve the ability of libraries and archives to provide broad access to and use of information and collections with emphasis on collaboration to avoid duplication and maximize reach.
  • Strengthen the ability of libraries to provide services to affected communities in the event of an emergency or disaster.
  • Strengthen the ability of libraries, archives, and museums to work collaboratively for the benefit of the communities they serve.

My idea was to create a digital library for Community Cookbooks, the original recipe blogs. The IMLS process involves writing a preliminary proposal, briefly describing your idea:

Community Cookbook Project – IMLS Preliminary Proposal

Project Title: Post-war Community Cookbooks Collection

Project Summary:

This project will locate, collect, digitize, and provide access to what are commonly known as “community cookbooks”; self-published cookbooks assembled by the members of a local community, typically as a fundraising project for a church group or civic organization. The time period covered will be 1945 to 2000.

Project Narrative:

The goal of the project will be to locate, digitaize, and provide metadata for community cookbooks that were created between the years 1945 and 2000. A community cookbook is a self-published book that is assembled from recipes provided by members of a particular community, often created as a fundraising device for a church or local community group. A good overview of the history of these cookbooks can be found in this NPR story: https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2012/07/18/156983942/long-before-social-networking-community-cookbooks-ruled-the-stove

Although these cookbooks have been created since the Reconstruction period, the focus of this project is to collect those created between the years 1945 and 2000, a period that is not well represented in any of the online research and collections of these books that I have found. These dates were chosen to represent a representative period in history; starting with the end of WWII and the growth of suburban America, and ending as the internet started to become a dominant force in the way Americans communicated — although community cookbooks are still made, the widespread sharing of recipes on the WWW and cheap desktop printing has changed their character and their cultural relevance.

The historical significance of these cookbooks rests in their humble origins — they were produced and distributed by peers of their intended audience, and the both the recipes that are shared and the overall tone and style of the text tells us about the domestic lives of mostly middle-class women who were for the most part quiet backbones of their communities. The period of 1945 to 2000 was one of enormous social, economic, and cultural change that affected every part of America; home cooking was no exception and there is a wealth of interesting historical data to be found in these texts. Styles of cooking, ingredients used, and small details like the names of particular dishes are all of interest.

For the geographical scope, all of the United States is included. While an international comparison would be interesting, remaining within one country will simplify many aspects of the project. Collection methods will be varied, but for the most part will rely on communication with local entities and individuals within a community as partners in locating the source materials. This would be the ideal method of acquisition, because when items are borrowed from individuals the owners can be given a short form, or do a brief phone interview, to gather information such as where and when the item was acquired that will be useful for creating metadata. These works can also be found occasionally in public libraries, and they can be found for sale on internet sites for collectibles such as eBay and Etsy.

Copyright issues exist for this collection, particularly since these cookbooks were originally created as items for sale and therefore the market effect of creating digital access muse be taken into account. Since the great majority of these works were published by nonprofessional entities, and since authorship is invariably assigned to a collective, most of these would fall into the category of “orphaned works” whose rights holder cannot be identified or found. There is also a small commercial market for these books as collectibles. However, given that the primary intent and expected use of the digitized versions is historical research, and the general obscurity of the majority of these works, I think a claim of fair use is entirely justified for the project as a whole.

The end result will be a collection of works available on the internet in a typical digital library format, each of which will consist of a group of digital images (scanned pages of the books) with accompanying text files created by OCR, and metadata about the origin and history of the object. Primary access points will be geographic location, year of creation, keyword searching of titles, and keyword searching of contents. Other methods of categorizing items, such as styles of cooking, may become apparent as the collection is cataloged and commonalities become apparent.

After a preliminary proposal is accepted, the institutions submits a full proposal with an impact statement, a project plan and timeline, and a budget. We also created a Powerpoint presentation and pitched our idea to the class. (Audio not available, but you can get the general idea from the slides):

Presentation of the Community Cook Book Digital Library
Jason Grey, MLIS