With unemployment nearing unprecedented percentages due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Utah State University Libraries has kept student and other hourly wage employees employed by offering remote work.
Students are transcribing early editions of USU student newspaper, the Utah Statesman and its predecessor, Student Life. These range from November 1902 to present day and will be available in a digital collection.
“Large-scale transcription with wider community participation is something we have long wanted to pursue,” Head of Digital Initiatives Becky Thoms said. “However, it was a project that always seemed to stay on the backburner, until now.”
With current Stay Home, Stay Safe orders from Governor Gary Herbert, employers have encouraged remote work. Under this guideline, USU Libraries jumped at the chance to fulfill this long-awaited project.
“The end product is going to be enormously beneficial to future researchers,” Thoms said. “The students engaged in the transcription are also gaining a very different perspective on what being an Aggie has meant throughout history. This work makes the newspaper keywords searchable, creating better access for students with disabilities and meets other obligations to the American with Disabilities Act.”
Hourly employee Becky Sutton agreed.
“I love this project! It’s so interesting to read the articles,” Sutton said.
For some students, this project has become more than a way to pass the time. After circulation student worker Zach Garrett’s wife’s hours were cut at her job, they were unsure how they would pay bills if he was laid off too.
“It has provided me with peace of mind,” Garrett said. “Working remotely has been an incredible blessing to me and my family. It has also given me a way to contribute to the library and learn fascinating USU history.”
For other students, this project has also provided them a social outlet.
“I can still keep in contact with my coworkers and supervisors,” Special Collections & Archives student worker Abigale Rodabough said. “Everyone’s been very supportive and it’s still a good work environment, even if I can’t physically see them.”
When completed, the transcription will improve readability and accessibility of historical materials housed in Merrill-Cazier Library.
“We want to make this content easier to discover and search, “Thoms said. “It will mean the public will have the opportunity to make new discoveries.”
To see the collection, visit https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/newspapers/. Additional transcriptions will be added as they are completed.