Building a Digital Collection for Academic Research

A digital collection, which can contain just a few or thousands of items, can be an incredibly useful tool for a researcher who needs a searchable database of digital files relating to an academic project or area of interest. For example, you may visit multiple archives and obtain dozens or hundreds of digitized documents, images, and audio-visual files as background information for a book or article.

A digital collection would allow you to:

Never Were Two Pieces of Indian Pottery Exactly Alike, [page 52 and 53], 1920, from American Indians: First families of the Southwest by the Fred Harvey Co.
  •    Search and retrieve these files in a single repository,
  •    Make items available to other researchers and/or the public through a link
  •    Preserve the information over the long-run.
  •    Use innovative ancillary applications, like mapping and digital exhibits.

Creating a digital collection is not difficult, but it does require planning. Three main components make up a digital collection:

  1. digitization,
  2. cataloging/metadata creation
  3. digital collections software

Software, such as, allows people to view the digital files and their corresponding, searchable metadata record together.

If you would like to learn how to build a digital collection, register for our two-part workshop, Workshop: Build A Digital Collection, Part 1 and Workshop: Build A Digital Collection, Part 2, held September 7 (12:00-1:00) and September 8 (1:00-3:00). Please remember to register for both parts.

The Norwick Center for Digital Solutions (nCDS), a unit of Central University Libraries (CUL), is making available online tens of thousands of items from CUL special collections, including the DeGolyer Library and Bywaters Special Collections, in the CUL Digital Collections web site. CUL Digital Collections have received millions of hits and are being used in hundreds of research projects both at SMU and around the world.

nCDS offers advice and training to faculty, students, and staff on how to create digital collections. We also offer a Digital Humanities practicum on digital collections development. For more information, contact Cindy Boeke, Digital Collections Librarian,


5 Minutes with GIS: What is it?

We met with Sylvia George-Williams to spend a few minutes talking about GIS. Sylvia is one of Fondren Library’s Science Research Librarians and the subject librarian for engineering. She and Dr. Jessie Zarazaga, Project Director for Initiative for Spatial Literacy, will be leading the upcoming “Introduction to GIS Mapping for Research” workshop.

Q: What exactly is GIS and why should I know about it?

Sylvia: GIS actually stands for Geographic Information Systems. They are computerized systems that allow us to capture, manage, analyze, and display spatial or geographic data. One should know about these systems because they allow us to visualize and better understand relationships, patterns and trends as opposed to just looking at tables full of numbers and data.

Q: Is GIS only for scientists?

Sylvia: GIS is not only for scientists, but for anyone who uses geographic information to solve problems or make decisions. For example, politicians can use it in policy making, businesses can use it in making decisions as to where to locate a business, people in the healthcare field can use it to better understand how certain environmental issues affect people in a certain area, etc.

Q: What types of services do you provide in the libraries?

Sylvia: Right now, we provide workshops for people to learn how to use GIS; we’re planning on having specific times when people working with GIS can drop by and ask for help if they’re having problems.  

Q: What will we learn in the workshop this week?

Sylvia: The workshop this week will be a basic introduction to GIS. People will learn what GIS is, how they can use it, and participants will be introduced to ArcGIS online, which the current industry standard. Then, we will have some basic hands-on activities using the system.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday, February 8th, at 3:00 pm in Fondren Library. Register online if you are interested in attending. 

Image Credit: ‘Pippalou’ at

Library Staff Music Playlist: Listen Now!

Listen Now!

Get the playlist

Finals are almost here so it is time to hit the books! Enjoy a playlist of hand-picked songs from the Libraries Staff to help you focus while studying.

Have Spotify Premium on your phone? Enter spotify:user:ncdsatsmu into the Spotify search.

Questions or Comments? Email us at

Sponsored by Norwick Center for Digital Services

Angela Duckworth Book Signing, May 12


Thursday, May 12

Angela Duckworth presents GRIT: The Power and Passion of Perseverance

6 p.m. Author’s Reception. Cost, $30 (includes signed book). RSVP Required
Cash or check accepted at the door. Signed book included.
7 p.m. FREE Lecture and book signing. No RSVP required.

Location: Highland Park United Methodist Church, Wesley Hall (3300 Mockingbird Lane)

Related TED Talk:

About the book: Why do some people succeed and others fail? Sharing new insights from her landmark research on grit, MacArthur “genius” Angela Duckworth explains why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Rather, other factors can be even more crucial such as identifying our passions and following through on our commitments.

Winningly personal, insightful, and even life-changing, Grit is a book about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference. A must read for persons of all ages who want to persevere.

Books will be available for purchase at this event.

Love Your Library

This program is part of the Authors LIVE! series co-sponsored by Friends of the SMU Libraries, Highland Park United Methodist Church, Friends of the Highland Park Library, and HPISD Parent Education Committee.

Join the Friends! Learn more.

Paws and Take a Break

Reduce the stress of studying for finals! Spend some time with a therapy dog!

Therapy Dogs

About the Event:

Our canine friends from Pet Partners will visit with students to help reduce stress from finals.  Research has shown that spending 5-24 minutes with a calm dog reduces blood pressure and the levels of stress hormones in the body**.

Everyone is welcome to stop by and visit with our four-legged friends as we are getting ready for finals.

Event Details

Tuesday, May 3rd

Time: 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Location: Taubman Atrium @ Owen Arts Ctr



** Health-related information source: The Health and Psychological Benefits of Bonding with a Pet Dog, Psychology Today.

Fondren Library Celebration, April 15


April 1, 2016

DALLAS (SMU) – The renovation of SMU’s Fondren Library, to be unveiled during Founders’ Day Weekend, features a transformation of information technology resources for student and faculty researchers and a restoration of the historic grandeur of the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room.

The Fondren Foundation, Hillcrest Foundation, Hoblitzelle Foundation and other donors to the renovation will be honored at 12:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, at a ribbon cutting on the library steps. Immediately following, an open house in the library will feature a release party for SMU historian Darwin Payne’s new book, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of SMU.

Guests will have an opportunity to tour the first phase of the renovation including the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room and the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall. The second phase of the renovation includes the Prothro Learning Commons, given by the Hoblitzelle Foundation in honor of Caren H.  Prothro in acknowledgement of her exceptional services as a trustee for both SMU and the foundation.  The second phase, which includes the Collaborative Commons and Starbucks  Café, and the Gillian M. McCombs Special Collections Reading Room, will open in fall 2016.

The 6,000-quare-foot Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room, the centerpiece of the renovation, has been restored to its original 1940 grandeur as a signature study space for students. White oak bookcases, casement windows and original architectural details have been restored and accented. New lighting highlights the seven plaster bas relief elements in the ceiling, sculptures by Texas sculptor Harry Lee Gibson, who is best known for his sculptures at Fair Park’s Hall of State. Each bas relief sculpture represents an important scene from literature, from Beowulf to Whitman.

More than 50 donors provided the Reading Room’s American cherry handcrafted wooden study tables and chairs, designed by Thomas Moser. Each table is topped with an amber American Craftsman design lamp.

Students gathered to study in the reading room until 1968, when Fondren Library East opened, providing new study space on its four floors. The reading room was then divided for other library and administration uses.

“The renovation plan responds to the demand for varied spaces for learning and research. Students often work in teams, using several work stations at a time,” says Gillian M. McCombs, dean and director of Central University Libraries. “Students also requested more individual silent study space, which is why it was so important that the backbone of this project be the return of the reading room to its original purpose as a quiet oasis for individual study.”

The renovation also includes the Hillcrest Foundation Exhibit Hall, designed to showcase the treasures in SMU library special collections. “Books, Buildings and Benefactors,” the first exhibit in the hall, will highlight signature items in the library collections, including rare books, manuscripts, photographs, prints and ephemera. Political items, such as a 1900 William Jennings Bryan presidential campaign poster, first edition books by William Faulkner and J.D. Salinger as well as historic SMU photos will be included in the exhibit.

“We are grateful to the Fondren, Hillcrest and Hoblitzelle Foundations and all the donors to the renovation of Fondren Library,” said Brad Cheves, SMU vice president for Development and External Affairs. “These important improvements are very tangible gifts for our students and faculty, and will support the sharing of our SMU library treasures with the community.”

Centennial Reading Room Dedication

Fondren Library Reading RoomFriday, April 15

12:30 p.m.
Dedication Ceremony, Fondren Library Center

Celebration of the donors to the renovation of Fondren Library, including the Fondren Foundation Centennial Reading Room

1 p.m. Open house to follow, including Centennial History Book Release Party

More information.

Centennial History Book Release Party, April 15

One Hundred Years on the Hilltop

Join the Fondren Library Celebration

Friday, April 15

12:30 p.m.
Dedication Ceremony, Fondren Library Center (more details)

1 p.m. Open house to follow, including Centennial History Book Release Party

One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of Southern Methodist University with author Darwin Payne ’68.

Order a pre-signed copy online


DALLAS (SMU) – SMU’s first comprehensive history, One Hundred Years on the Hilltop, by historian Darwin Payne, will be released April 15 as the University celebrates Founders’ Day. Payne, SMU professor emeritus of communications, will sign books at 1:30 p.m., April 15, at an open house celebrating the renovation of Fondren Library.

As SMU’s centennial historian, Payne spent more than five years researching and writing the 525-page hardback book, which begins with the debate among Texas Methodists that led to SMU’s 1911 founding, and ends with the 2015 conclusion of SMU’s Centennial celebration. In between, the book covers the strengths and weaknesses of University presidents, influential faculty members and alumni, campus reaction to world events, the highs and lows of intercollegiate athletics and student life.

“Anyone who enjoys a good story will like the book,” Payne says. “Researching and writing its history has been a genuine pleasure. As I undertook this work, I believed it would be a far more interesting story than most casual observers might realize. And indeed, it proved to be even more interesting than I expected.”

Payne used a wealth of primary materials, including the Board of Trustees minutes, University archives, newspapers, yearbooks, faculty members’ papers, oral histories and interviews conducted specifically for the project.

“Darwin tells the story well, never reluctant in lively style to delve into the university’s crises as well as its many successes, ” says Russell Martin, director of DeGolyer Library, publisher of One Hundred Years on the Hilltop.

 This is Payne’s second book on SMU. In 2011 he wrote In Honor of the Mustangs: A Centennial History of SMU Athletics. Payne earned an M.A. degree in history from SMU and a Ph.D. in American civilization from the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to teaching journalism at SMU for 30 years, Payne’s career has included newspaper and television reporting, publishing a weekly suburban newspaper, and writing several books on Dallas history and biographies of leading Dallas citizens. Payne helped cover the Kennedy assassination as a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald and co-edited the book Reporting the Kennedy Assassination: Journalists Who Were There Recall Their Experiences. His latest book, published in 2014, is titled No Small Dreams: J. Erik Jonsson, Texas Visionary. His book, Indomitable Sarah: The Life of Judge Sarah T. Hughes won the Texas State Historical Association’s Liz Carpenter Award for the best book on the history of women in 2004. Payne is also the recipient of the 2016 Literati Award presented by the Friends of the SMU Libraries.

 One Hundred Years on the Hilltop: The Centennial History of Southern Methodist University was made possible by a grant from the Hoblitzelle Foundation. It may be ordered online for $39.95 at


Leila Meacham Book Signing, April 21

Leila Meacham Book Signing

Thursday, April 21

Leila Meacham presents Titans

11 – 11:30 a.m. Author’s Reception. Cost, $30 (includes signed book and lunch). RSVP required.
11:30 a.m. Complimentary light buffet. RSVP required.
12 p.m. FREE Lecture and book signing. RSVP not required.

Location: Mack Ballroom, Umphrey Lee Center (3300 Dyer Street, SMU Campus)

Parking is available for this event on Bishop Blvd.
Please park on the left side of the street. View parking map.

RSVP required for paid reception and complimentary lunch.
RSVP deadline: Monday, April 18.
If you wish to attend the lecture only, seating will begin at 11:55 am.

Books will be available for purchase at this event.

About the book: Texas in the early 1900s, its inhabitants still traveling by horseback and barely familiar with the telephone, was on the cusp of an oil boom that, unbeknownst to its residents, would spark a period of dramatic changes and economic growth. In the midst of this transformative time in Southern history, two unforgettable characters emerge and find their fates irrevocably intertwined: Samantha Gordon, the privileged heiress to the sprawling Las Tres Lomas cattle ranch near Fort Worth, and Nathan Holloway, a sweet-natured and charming farm boy from far north Texas. As changes sweep the rustic countryside, Samantha and Nathan’s connection drives this narrative compulsively forward as they love, lose, and betray. In this grand yet intimate novel, Meacham once again delivers a heartfelt, big-canvas story full of surprising twists and deep emotional resonance.

Books will be available for purchase at this event.

Love Your LibraryThis program is sponsored by the Friends of the SMU Libraries.

Join the Friends! Learn more.

Jacquelyn Mitchard Book Signing – March 29


Tuesday, March 29

Jacquelyn Mitchard presents Two If By Sea

6 p.m. Author’s Reception. Cost, $30 (includes signed book). RSVP Required
Cash or check accepted at the door. Signed book included.
7 p.m. FREE Lecture and book signing. No RSVP required.

Location: Highland Park United Methodist Church, Wesley Hall (3300 Mockingbird Lane)

About the book: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart. Read more.

Books will be available for purchase at this event.

Love Your LibraryThis program is part of the Authors LIVE! series co-sponsored by Friends of the SMU Libraries, Highland Park United Methodist Church and the Friends of the Highland Park Library.

Join the Friends! Learn more.