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WCU Stories

Hunter Library Collaborates with UNCA to Merge Digital Collections

Carolina Mountain Club from Hunter Library

Photo from the Carolina Mountain Club. Photographer George Masa, who helped create support for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1930s, is in the back row, third from the left. 

Hunter Library is home to a trove of rare items documenting the Southern Appalachian mountain region. To augment this underappreciated collection, WCU’s Mark Stoffan is collaborating with his counterparts at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, where complementary materials are maintained in a separate system.

Many of the special collections cover the same subject areas, specifically Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachian history, but accessing the materials in one place isn’t possible now. It typically takes a library patron (student, faculty, staff) extra time and resources to conduct multiple searches through the current infrastructure, and this becomes a major barrier. 

With nearly $50,000 from The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)—federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services that are awarded by the State Library to eligible North Carolina libraries—the team can move into the next phase of innovation with a consultant, who will help them tackle strategic planning, appropriate technology, and integrating the existing digital files into a new shared system on one server.

“Merging our collections would simplify searching and access for our patrons and potentially save the institutions money by reducing duplicate tech,” said Stoffan, an associate professor in Hunter Library’s Department of Technology, Access, and Special Collections. “Our teams have informally discussed a joint initiative for years and the LSTA award will help us create a comprehensive proposal that should bring the idea to life soon.”

Collaboration isn’t new to these libraries. Hunter Library already shares a catalog with UNCA (and Appalachian State University) and the two institutions have worked together on projects for years. The team expects the digital collection merger to increase interest in and use of the unique items in their care, while expanding their visibility to a broader audience for the addition of more institutional partners.

-Galena Mosovich

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