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15th Annual Conference


 April 13, 2021 , 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

via Zoom Webinar



The Challenges of Non-English Language Collections

The challenges that are faced by heritage professionals whose collections contain non-English based materials are varied. While some of the challenges related to non-roman alphabet materials have been overcome, there are still several important issues that have yet to be successfully resolved. This session, presented by three heritage professionals who manage three distinctively different non-English collections, will provide a glimpse into how some of the successes were achieved and the difficulties that are still experienced by many heritage professionals.

Improving Access to Arabic-Script Materials

Among its many very great and serious challenges, the current pandemic shone a bright light on the importance of providing digital access to library collections of all kinds to readers and researchers who had suddenly lost access to physical collections due to pandemic precautions. For those whose research required the use of materials in languages written in non-roman scripts like Arabic, digitization had always been complicated by the difficulties of providing accurate OCR. Fortunately, efforts to crack the nut of Arabic-script OCR had been underway for several decades, with several important digital collections available to researchers well in advance of the lockdown. But the world’s access to fully-OCR’d Arabic-script material remains limited compared to that available for languages written in latin characters. In my presentation I will highlight several successful Arabic-script OCR projects that came online well before the pandemic began, and discuss not only the challenges encountered by the digitization process itself, but also the challenge of sustainability of digital projects, along with some of the unexpected consequences of improved access.

Digitization Challenges of Non-Roman Character Collections

Presenting archival collections with non-Roman characters within the confines of modern, Roman-centric computer systems has inherent technical challenges. Some of these challenges can be explored in the case study of the Yiddish Book Center’s website at yiddishbookcenter.org. The website, which is mostly in English, has more than 13,000 archival items and scanned books that are mostly in Yiddish, which is a Germanic language written with a modified Hebrew alphabet. This presentation will discuss some of the ways we’ve overcome the technical challenges in fonts, encoding, search, and cataloging. We’ll also discuss the various issues and compromises we’ve made in our institutional styleguides for Yiddish, English, and Hebrew words.

Navigating Access and Use of Indigenous Tlingit Archive Materials

As an indigenous non-profit organization responsible for the stewardship of Hoonah Tlingit (Alaska Native indigenous people) culture and language materials, we are facing challenges processing our collection for access and use. One barrier is that there are limited Tlingit language speakers; this makes it difficult to translate the materials. Additionally, providing access to items that are clan owned presents intellectual property rights issues. We are at the beginning stages of processing our physical archive collection and look forward to sharing our experience as we begin to develop solutions. This presentation will share some of our successes navigating through the obstacles encountered and how we are approaching the access and use issues of our collection, different voices within our community, and clan system.


Roberta L. Dougherty holds an M.A. in Contemporary Arab Studies from Georgetown University and an M.I.L.S. from the University of Michigan. She is the Librarian for Middle East Studies at the Yale University Library. She has been a library professional for 28 years, employed at the University of Pennsylvania, the Library of Congress, the Oxford University Libraries, the American University in Cairo, and the University of Texas at Austin. Her research and publishing has explored the history of printing and publishing in the Middle East, the history of Middle East manuscript collections in the United States, the social construction of performance in Egypt, the expressive culture of the Arab Spring, and Egyptian musical film. In 2016 she was awarded the David H. Partington Award by the Middle East Librarians Association for excellence in and contributions to the field of Middle East librarianship. She is the current president of the Middle East Librarians Association and a long-time member of the Middle East Studies Association of North America.

Amber Kanner Clooney is the web developer and digital projects librarian at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. Amber manages and develops the website and technical aspects of the Center’s digital collections. She received her MLIS from Simmons College in 2007 and her bachelor’s degree in English from George Mason University. She has worked in various academic and public libraries, with a primary focus on digital resources, collections, and providing access to digital content.

Amelia Wilson is of Tlingit and Irish descent from the village of Hoonah, Alaska, and a member of the Chookaneidí brown bear clan. She serves as Executive Director for Huna Heritage Foundation; a non-profit affiliate of Huna Totem Corporation established to foster and support educational and cultural opportunities for current and future generations. Amelia is responsible for the oversight and administration of the Huna Heritage Library and Archives; scholarship program; and Our Way of Life community programming. Prior to her current position, she served as the Archivist for Huna Heritage Foundation and was instrumental in the development of the Huna Heritage Digital Archives, an online Mukurtu CMS web portal hosting audio and visual content that is of cultural and historic value related to Hoonah. Largely due to Amelia’s work on the digital archives, in 2019 Huna Heritage Foundation won the International Guardians of Culture and Lifeways “Archives Institutional Excellence” Award from The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums. Amelia is a motivated service-to-community oriented professional who enjoys volunteering at the local level as a city council member, vice mayor of Hoonah, member of the Alaska Native Sisterhood, the Hoonah Liquor Board, the Hoonah Veterans Committee, a Big Sister through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and the Tlingit dance group the Gaawx Xaayi Dancers.  Amelia provides consultation, gives lectures/presentations, and teaches classes on numerous topics of cultural, historical, and contemporary value in local, regional, and international venues. She is personally and professionally committed to the ongoing development of her cultural knowledge and is honored to share it with others. 

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