Most Important Projects of My (Professional) Life: One Announced Today with CLIR Hidden Collections

Today, one of the most important projects of my life was awarded. CLIR Hidden Collections announced the newest round of funded projects for their Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. The full list is incredible! Within that full list is:

Film on a Boat: Digitizing Historical Newspapers of the Caribbean ($448,139.00)

University of Florida, University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras (UPR), Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC)

Film on a Boat will serve a continuing partnership between the University of Florida (UF) and the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras (UPR) to digitize each institutions’ unique, hidden holdings of Caribbean newspapers on master microfilm. This three-year project seeks to digitize and make freely available 800,000 pages of pre-1923 Caribbean newspapers. The partners will produce new second generation microfilm negatives; catalog individual titles; conduct issue-level collation; send to a vendor for digitization, creation of derivative files, and OCR text files; perform quality control on deliverables; and ingest into the Digital Library of the Caribbean ( and Biblioteca Digital Puertorriqueña ( Once available digitally, these resources will provide scholars with access to previously unavailable information on daily life in the Caribbean to enable new research and research questions from a variety of fields and disciplines on cross-cutting issues including migration, social movements, history, and literature.

I became a librarian in 2007, as a technological expert with a PhD in English/Media Studies (video games). I became a librarian because I learned through my work in grad school that I could leverage technology to enable access, community building, mutual aid, and true collaboration, which I love. I didn’t have the same words then, and I couldn’t even say what this work should exactly mean.

In 2007, I met the Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC), which was founded years prior to enable capacity and community building, while developing a digital library for access and preservation founded on principles of shared goverance, mutual aid, and polycentric practices. This was the work I wanted to do with my life; I had my calling and I just needed to figure out how to do it. In 2007, dLOC was grant-funded, a project without certainty. The most important grant of my life was the second dLOC grant, blessedly awarded in 2009, which enabled dLOC to move from project to program.

I’ve had many grants since, so many projects, and so much wonderful work with a wonderful and beloved community. We’ve all worked so hard with so few resources to enable access, support preservation, curate digital materials, build upon these resources, and to build new resources, communities, and each other together.

Today, dLOC has over 3 million pages (files of all types, audio, data sets, etc), making it the world’s largest collection of Caribbean Open Access resources. With the award from CLIR, over 800,000 pages of historical newspapers will be added. These are newspapers only in microfilm, often with only 1 copy in the world, and often with metadata that includes the title, nothing more. The microfilm was done for preservation, with records to be done as resources allowed, and resources are now in place. Right now, you can’t find these film reels in central databases like WorldCat (or even in local catalogs unless you know they’re there, and then it’s not easy, if it can be done). These are truly hidden collections, and now they’ll be alive and shared in the world, and they will transform the quantity of Caribbean materials available online to such a scale that it will be a change in kind.

In meeting dLOC, I found my calling and a beloved community. I’m still working to be a Caribbeanist (my Intermediate Spanish 2 class starts Monday!), but I learned what it means to be a librarian with dLOC, and my heart is full every day with wonders and our wonderful communities. I am so thrilled and so thankful for the CLIR grant for what it means for all of us! For me, it’s more great work to share and to build and grow together. And, my story/life of this is only a small part of our many stories of so many. I’m happy to get to take part, and to help. Thanks to dLOC, Caribbean Studies, ACURIL (you know I love you; my first library professional home!), and to all who do such much great work and bring so much joy

Thanks to all who made this possible, and to all who will be together with us in the future!