Collaborating to Digitize Legacy State Publications

Monday, July 15, 2019

In a new initiative to expand access to historical documents related to North Carolina higher education, the University Archives at University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) recommended digitization of 103 titles from the State Library of North Carolina’s Government and Heritage Library (GHL). At no cost to UNCW, GHL digitized the suggested titles and provided public access through the North Carolina State Government Digital Publications Collection, a searchable and robust digital collection covering a wide array of subjects. This collaborative, cross-institutional digitization project, led by librarians and archivists, demonstrates GHL’s mission to provide professional digitization and access solutions for state publications. Cover of Community Colleges for North Carolina: A Study of Need, Location, and Service Areas

University of North Carolina Wilmington University Archives

The University Archives, located in Randall Library, is the official repository of records and history of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Archival collections include office records, meeting minutes, photographs, maps, videos, and university publications. UNC Wilmington has a long-standing practice of contributing print and electronic state publications to the Government and Heritage Library (GHL) at the State Library of North Carolina. 

Government and Heritage Library

While the GHL is popular among genealogy researchers for its collections of indexes and abstracts of NC records, family records, newspapers, and microfilm, the library’s primary function, by law, is to serve as the principal library of state government. Consequently, GHL is the State Library’s official permanent depository for publications of state government and state agencies.  For many years, this meant paper publications, but now there is a large and rapidly growing North Carolina State Government Digital Publications Collection.

What qualifies as a state publication?

G.S. 125-11 defines a state publication as “any document prepared by a state agency or private organization, consultant, or research firm, under contract with or without the supervision of a state agency.” Publications are printed or digital. 

Eligible state publications include directories, histories, statistical reports, maps, regulations, newsletters, brochures, and periodicals. Exempt publications are administrative documents, training documents, budget requests, contracts, meeting agendas, meeting minutes, forms, press releases, job announcements, event announcements, and manuals or handbooks intended for internal use only.

Creating a collaboration

Public colleges and universities in North Carolina contribute commencement bulletins, literary magazines, and other materials. The University Archives at UNCW regularly sends these publications to GHL, but in late fall 2017 responded to a new initiative to expand access to historical documents related to North Carolina higher education by reviewing their library’s print collection against GHL’s online catalog. If a print publication at UNCW was also in the GHL catalog and not available digitally, staff contacted GHL to request digitization of the publication. Overall, the University Archivist at UNCW recommended over 100 state publications for digitization.

Digitizing Titles

GHL welcomes digitization suggestions from librarians and the public. When the library receives a request for digitization, staff checks whether a title is already available online, its copyright status, and its physical condition. If there are no barriers to digitization, then items with more than twenty-five pages are sent offsite, while small and fragile items are digitized inhouse. Once digitized, a state publication title is assigned descriptive metadata and added to the North Carolina State Government Digital Publications Collection.

Outcomes from Collaboration

Cover of The Report of the Governor’s Commission on Education Beyond the High School

By spring 2019, UNCW and GHL added 103 new titles to the North Carolina State Government Digital Publications Collection. Now digitized, works like The Fact Book on Higher Education in North Carolina (1962) and Institutional Profiles, University of North Carolina (1993-2008) reach online audiences, including commuter students and distance learners. To find these and more than 39,000 born digital and digitized state publications, visit the North Carolina State Government Digital Publications Collection at

For more information

For more information on this project, contributing state publications to GHL, or starting a new state publication digitization collaboration, contact Denise Jones, Liaison Librarian.

Denise Jones, State Publications Clearinghouse Liaison
Krista Sorenson, Digital Projects Librarian