Special Collections in Redwood City pivots to digital projects during COVID-19 shelter-in-place

Glynn, Sally, Christy, Alyssa, Gurudarshan, David, Franz, Ann, Annie, Brian, and Laura

In the beginning of March, managers at Stanford Libraries began talking about working remotely and decided to set up shifts in each department – half working two weeks on site and half two weeks remotely. By the 6th of March the teams for our Collection Services group out in Redwood City were assembled, and the first group – Aries – stayed home for their first week. The Libraries were only one week into that first shift, when the state of California and Stanford decided that everyone should shelter at home starting on the 16th. The Aries team was taken off guard - we all were. Although we had discussed and lined up remote projects, not everyone had taken their computer and ergonomic equipment home with them. A few of us went in to grab equipment (desktop computers, monitors, etc.) and forgotten items (like reading glasses!) and drove around making deliveries – not everyone in the Bay Area drives a car! 

Luckily we had already begun planning remote projects to ensure that our staff, including our current hourly employees, had projects they could help with. Most of the projects were either data cleanup or the creation of descriptive metadata for digitized and digital collections – both acquired and born-digital. As you might imagine, with over 200 Terabytes of data captured from over 125 collections, we have a seemingly endless supply of digital material to process and make discoverable and accessible. Some of the projects are in planning or preparation stages, a few were completed during our first month of sheltering at home; but most are in process. When we left in March, we had about 15 projects lined up; we now have over 40 projects either active or in queue. 

The development and management of these projects falls most heavily onto four (soon to be five) individuals in our division: Ann Myers, Annie Schweikert, Franz Kunst, and Laura Wilsey. The fifth will be Gurudarshan Khalsa, who came on board this spring as our Processing Archivist for small-medium collections and Registrar for external loans. We started a new Google Team Drive to manage our remote work and created a spreadsheet to manage the projects, listing: project lead – or manager, staff participating in the project, status, etc. These projects fell into a few obvious categories – metadata for digitized or born-digital materials, authority work, and clean-up of data, such as finding aids and catalog records. The main goal is to make materials discoverable and accessible through Stanford Libraries’ SearchWorks platform – within the parameters of copyright and legal agreements. 

These project managers are running multiple projects concurrently with more in the hopper. Staff across the library are participating – being trained in our processes and tools, authority work, etc. I am amazed by the resiliency and dedication of all our staff and very proud to work with this group of individuals – those running the projects and those participating. I would like to give special thanks to our Expert Partner, Sally DeBauche, who assisted staff with checking out equipment, obtaining software, VPN setup, etc. 

As we focus on a digital forward library in this unprecedented time, even in the face of personal anxiety and familial responsibilities, our staff are pushing ahead to make our materials available to the Stanford Community and beyond.

Ann Myers, Rare Books Cataloger


  • Data clean up of over 58,000 records from our rare books collection to convert outdated local headings to current cataloging practice. These headings include access points for printers, illustrators, binders, and former owners; geographic headings for places of publication; and bibliographic citations. These updates will improve indexing and searching in SearchWorks, and put our records in better shape for eventual linked data projects.  Participating library staff are from the Department of Conservation (Jill Sison, Beth Ryan, Aude Gabory) and Special Collections (Brian Bethel, Peter Whidden, and Gurudarshan Khalsa). 
  • Completed a project to enhance catalog records based on work done by Prof. Rowan Dorin’s students, where they examined rare printed books with manuscript scraps in the binding, and tried to identify the texts of the manuscripts. The class report has been ingested into the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR) and is available in SearchWorks. Ann expanded the catalog records for the books to reflect their research and to ensure that the records meet current standards for cataloging manuscript bindings. Ann’s work was recently highlighted in the Libraries’ news feed.

Annie Schweikert, Digital Archivist


  • Don Knuth papers: Annie is processing Prof. Knuth’s email using ePADD software developed at Stanford Libraries by Special Collections. She is working under the guidance of Sally DeBauche.
  • Allen Ginsberg papers, audio transcriptions: working closely with Sally DeBauche (SPEC) & Peter Mangiafico (DLSS), this first phase is to run 65 audio recordings through the Google AI app to create a better transcription (speech to text) than we were able to get over a year ago. 
  • Dorothy Fadiman/Concentric Media papers: Describing 865 video interviews for one of her films, Stealing America. This project is complete and is merely waiting to be ingested into the SDR. Participant: Alyssa Tou, Special Collections (SPEC).
  • Amos Gitai film archive
    • Creating description for 447 video files for News from Home/News from House – the fourth film we have been processing in this collection. This project is done. Participant: Gurudarshan Khalsa, SPEC. [Complete - description published to SearchWorks and online exhibit.]
    • 1312 video files from Tsili (film). Participant: Alyssa Tou. [Complete - description published to SearchWorks and online exhibit.]
    • 417 video files from Free Zone (film). Participant: Gurudarshan Khalsa.
  • Leonid Yakobson collection: Describing 77 video files. Participant: Natasha Porfirenko, Public Services Dept.
  • New Dimensions Media records: 212 audio files. Participant: Shizuka Nakazaki, Science & Engineering Group.
  • John Marcum papers: metadata clean-up for 26 audio files. Participant: Natasha Porfirenko.
  • James Omura papers: metadata clean-up for 85 audio files. Participant: Natasha Porfirenko.
  • Silicon Genesis oral history project: describing 103 oral history video files. Participants: Chris Hacker and Katharine Dimitruk, Digital Production Group.

Franz Kunst, Processing Archivist


  • Finding aid clean-up - updating legacy guides published to the Online Archive of California. Participants: Franz Kunst, David Krah, Gurudarshan Khalsa
  • Entering old Word, Excel or FileMaker collection listings into ArchivesSpace and then publishing to OAC, identifying other unpublished listings in AS. Participants: Franz Kunst
  • Preparing online exhibit on David DeCamp collection of Jamaican Creole tape recordings, 1957-1959. Participants: Lucayo Casillas, Franz Kunst
  • Establishing a new workflow for processing the backlog of scanned public domain collection material which needs to be described & ingested into SDR. Participants: Franz Kunst, Gurudarshan Khalsa, Laura Wilsey

Laura Wilsey, Manuscripts Cataloger/Metadata Librarian


  • William Carter papers: working initially on 350 image files. Participant: Esther Wan, SPEC hourly employee.
  • David Bacon photography archive: over 1,500 image files, selected by David Bacon. Participants: Laura Wilsey, assisted by Christy Smith, Ryan Lieu (Conservation), Astrid Smith and Linda Lam (DLSS) and Lucayo Casillas (SPEC hourly employee). Laura is also collaborating on an online exhibit site with curator Ben Stone. [Over 680 photos already online; more in process.]
  • Cantor Arts Center collection of ancient coins: cataloging and photographing the next batch of 25 (mostly) Greek coins. Participant: Bjoern Buschbech. 
  • Allen Ginsberg photograph collection: create description for over 400 scanned negatives. Participant: Lucayo Casillas.
  • Road & Track magazine records: create metadata for approximately 3,500 rolls of black/white film that are not yet online. Participants: Jessica Cebra (MDU) and Herve (Data Control)
  • San Mateo County Resource Conservation District records, minutes: over 840 digitized meeting minutes; metadata created by Laura & Franz.
  • R. Stuart Hummel family papers, data clean-up: clean up of over 3,100 digital objects in order to be in compliance with SDR requirements. Participants: Astrid Smith and hourly employees (DPG)

Gurudarshan Khalsa, Processing Archivist/Loan Registrar

Project: Gurudarshan will be dealing with our smaller digital collections that are primarily in the public domain.