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April 23- 29 is Preservation Week! This annual initiative aims to unite communities through individual and collective efforts to preserve our personal and shared collections.

Digital preservation is the process of managing and storing digital assets (image files, audio files, video files and text files) and their associated metadata so that they are guaranteed to be accessible, available and useable in the future. Digital preservation processes apply to assets that were ‘born digital,’ as well as digitized analogue and physical assets.

We spoke to Bronwen Sprout, Head, Digital Programs and Services and Mimi Lam, Librarian, Digital Projects about some of the greatest challenges of digital preservation and how UBC Library is tackling these challenges in strategic ways. 

What are some of the biggest challenges UBC Library faces with digital preservation? 

In general, format obsolescence (the process of becoming outdated and no longer used), media degradation, planning for long term storage, and resourcing are real or potential digital preservation challenges. Developing expertise in this emerging area is also a challenge, and practically speaking, competing priorities are a challenge for us as well. The sheer volume of material that needs to be preserved is also a challenge — we need to make decisions about what to preserve and then actively manage it, and the volume of material that could be preserved just continues to increase.

How do we overcome these challenges? 

Policies and best practices will help us to make those decisions and we are seeking to address these challenges in a variety of ways. We implemented Archivematica, our digital preservation system, several years ago and are continuing to develop expertise in the Library as well as engaging stakeholders across the Library to increase awareness and knowledge of the issues. We are working with Artefactual (the company that develops Archivematica) to streamline our systems environment and pipelines, documenting all workflows and procedures, and assessing our gaps via TRAC self-audit. We also formed a Digital Preservation sub-committee that oversees and provides expertise on the policies and documentation of UBC Library’s Digital Preservation Strategy. Read more about UBC Library’s Digital Preservation Strategy.

How important is metadata in digital preservation?

Metadata is essential for a number of reasons: it is the main way Archivematica understands the package that is being ingested. i.e. metadata is matched up with the objects (such as image files) Creation of the DIP (dissemination information package) for access is entirely reliant on metadata i.e. Our objects are only as good as the metadata that accompanies it because it is via the metadata that our users can search/access our collections. Without robust metadata, objects are not findable whether they are in archival storage or the access system.

Can you share a little about some of the exciting digital preservation projects ongoing at UBC Library? 

In the Digitization Centre, one of the things we’re working on is a legacy digital preservation project: BC Historical Books is a multi-year digitization project that has been running since the Digitization Centre opened in 2011. It contains more than 1100 books listed in the multi-volume British Columbia Bibliography. This material is currently being prepared for digital preservation because it is a flagship project and one in which we have invested considerable resources and has a dedicated Metadata Student Assistant and Digital Preservation Student Assistant.

UBC Library’s digital repository, cIRcle, is home to a diverse array of digital content produced by faculty and students, including articles, conference and workshop papers, theses and dissertations, technical reports and working papers, books, datasets, learning objects, and multimedia and audio-visual materials including podcasts and webcasts. Currently, 40,000+ items from cIRcle are being preserved in Archivematica via automated pipelines.

Finally, born digital objects acquired by Rare Books and Special Collections are also being digitally preserved via Archivematica. We are currently undergoing a project to define appraisal, digital forensics, etc. procedures for born digital acquisitions for digital preservation via Archivematica.

A bibliography of British Columbia. Laying the foundations, 1849-1899 from the BC Books project.

UBC Library’s annual Report to the Senate (2015-16) is now available. Read about our milestones from the past fiscal year, which included connecting students to transformative learning experiences, investing in collections and engaging with the community.

View the entire report below or or download the PDF.

During this period, IKBLC will be closed to faculty, staff and students. The main study areas in the IKBLC, including the Chapman Learning Commons, will reopen at 8 p.m.

Please refer to the Library Hours & Locations to make alternative plans.

staff at booth

Thank you to all the UBC students who came to the Library’s annual Chat and Chew Library Love booth last Thursday in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Visitors grabbed snacks and swag to help them with their finals, and dropped in for a pop-up photo booth.

The Library hosts a Library Love booth twice a year to share appreciation for library users of all kinds and to encourage communication about library services and spaces.

Follow our Facebook page to see the album of photos from the event, and be sure to join us for the next Library Love event in the fall!

 staff at booth


UBC Library is the first institution in Canada to provide access to the South China Morning Post’s digital archives to its users. First published in 1903, the English-language newspaper is a premier publication known for its authoritative, influential and independent reporting on all of Asia.

This acquisition has been a number of years in the making,” says Allan Cho, Community Engagement Librarian at UBC Library, “This is something that UBC Faculty has asked for and we’re happy that after much effort at Koerner Library, we were able to make this happen.”

Perhaps most significant about the South China Morning Post is its editorial perspective and balanced coverage of key events in the development of China throughout the 20th century. “This newspaper is known for upholding Freedom of the Press — it has always managed to escape official censorship,” explains Cho, “It has provided objective, impartial coverage of important events in Hong Kong, China and all of Asia, from the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911, to the Communist Revolution in 1949, to the Hong Kong riots in 1967.”

The May 7, 1967 issue of the South China Morning Post covering the Hong Kong Riots.

UBC Scholars are excited about research and teaching opportunities that access to SCMP’s archives will allow. “The South China Morning Post is a Hong Kong newspaper, but it has also covered, in great depth, the news of its surrounding regions,” adds Dr. Leo Shin, Associate Professor in Chinese History, “The UBC community has gained access to an important historical archive of East and Southeast Asia.”

The acquisition will have a significant impact on research in Chinese history, Hong Kong studies, British history, Imperial studies, Asian Canadian and Asian Migration studies as well as Vancouver history. “Access to the complete run of the SCMP means that scholars and students alike are now able to make use of an even wider range of first-hand materials to study Hong Kong and its surrounding regions,” says Shin.

Access the South China Morning Post archive.

Members of the class of 1932 at their 20-year reunion in 1952.

Years ago, UBC’s class of 1932 established an endowment meant to be used towards the development of UBC Library’s Collections. At the time, they likely envisioned that the funds would go towards new books or a rare acquisition at the library. It is improbable that they could have ever imagined the kinds of collections they are funding or the tremendous impact they are having on future generations of UBC students.

The endowment will fund UBC Library’s annual contribution to Knowledge Unlatched, an initiative that brings together libraries from all over the world via a crowdfunding platform to support Open Access scholarly ebooks in the humanities and social sciences.  In 2016, 343 scholarly titles from 54 publishers were ‘unlatched’ with funds from over 250 supporting libraries worldwide including UBC Library. Since its inception in 2013, the Knowledge Unlatched initiative has ‘unlatched’ 449 frontlist and backlist ebooks, making them available to readers all over the world. 


“We were looking for a way to continue our support of Knowledge Unlatched this year and the class of 1932 has come through for us,” says Ellen George, Humanities & Social Sciences Librarian at UBC Library and Knowledge Unlatched Title Selection Committee member, “It’s wonderful that these UBC alumni, who could never have imagined ebooks or open access, are helping to fund this initiative”. 

Sixty of the unlatched ebooks are now accessible to students via OAPEN and Hathitrust and there are future plans to make all Knowledge Unlatched titles available for download via JSTOR.

Students from UBC’s class of 1932 from The Totem student yearbook.

Browse the titles available through Knowledge Unlatched.

Learn more about establishing an endowment at UBC Library.

The Irving K. Barber Learning Centre will stay open longer to accommodate students and their study schedules during final exams. The Learning Centre will be open 24 hours a day from Sunday, April 9 (opening at 6 a.m.) to Wednesday, April 26 (closing at 1 a.m.).

Please note that this opening DOES NOT include: Level 1 (the lower level), the Chapman Learning Commons, the Music, Art and Architecture Library or Ike’s Cafe. 

During the 24/7 opening period, regular cleaning of study spaces will continue. The computer workstations on Level 2 will remain open.

If you are planning to stay overnight at UBC or have an early exam, check out the Commuter Student Hostel, where you can book accommodation online.

Not sure where to go on campus? Travelling late at night? Contact Safewalk, a free service that provides a co-ed team to take you anywhere you need to go on campus. Don’t walk alone – add Safewalk to your phone: 604-822-5355. Safewalk is open from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Cst. Graham Walker

In 2015, Constable Graham Walker of the Metro Vancouver Transit Police was asked to research the force’s history for their 10-year anniversary. His research led him to the City of Vancouver Archives, BC Hydro Archives, the Vancouver Police Museum and to our very own UBC Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections where he discovered that the history of the Vancouver Transit Police in fact dates back more than 100 years – to 1904. In his digging, Walker uncovered something even more intriguing, the 102-year-old unsolved murder of Charles Painter, a special constable for the BC Electric Railway, in 1915.  We spoke to Constable Walker about his incredible journey into the past and the research that has culminated in a provincial memorial for Charles Painter.

How did you first learn about Charles Painter’s murder?

I was part of the event planning team for Transit Police’s 10-year anniversary in December 2015, and I was curious about our origins previous to the BC Transit Special Constables who were first appointed in 1985. My research began at BC Hydro Library and Archives, then UBC Library’s Rare Books & Special Collections. Before long I had learned of a century-long history of railway constables, night watchmen, and security officers on transit in British Columbia. There was even an armed special constabulary which protected the transit and power systems during World War II. Continuing my research, I visited the Vancouver Police Museum. There, the curator was assisting me in reviewing their archives when she discovered Painter’s murder recorded in the Vancouver Police annual report from 1915.

What made you want to learn more about his death?

This was the first anyone had heard of a line-of-duty death in our organization’s history. I also knew that he was not listed on the provincial memorial for fallen officers. Recognizing him was important to me because I felt a personal connection – he did a similar job to mine and I was even the same age as him when he died. It was an especially tragic death because it was caused by another person, and not an accident. He never had a memorial, and wasn’t recognized – possibly because he had no known family at the time of his death. This was a wrong I knew I could correct by collecting the appropriate evidence for a proposal that he be added to the memorial. 

Tell us a little about Charles Painter, his job and how he died.

Back in 1915, the streetcar system was operated by BC Electric Railway, a company which also operated power plants and sold electricity to cities and residents – that company became BC Hydro in 1962. They employed constables, appointed under the Railway Act, for special projects or events. In S/Cst. Painter’s case, during World War I he was assigned to the tracks along False Creek to guard against wire theft. It was 2 am on March 19th, 1915 when he spotted a man carrying a sack on his back near to the tracks. He called out to him and drew his revolver. In the resulting struggle, the gun went off and the suspect fled west along the tracks with Painter’s gun, handcuffs, and baton. He was taken to Vancouver General Hospital via the Police Ambulance, but succumbed to his injuries two days later.

I focused on three things that were required for him to be honoured by the provincial memorial – that he was duly appointed to office, he was acting in good faith at the time of the incident, and his death was caused by an external influence. I first reached out to Vancouver PD to see if they had files on the investigation, but unfortunately, they didn’t. Local historians tell me that back then, detectives would routinely take files and exhibits home after the case was concluded. The provincial archives did have the coroner’s inquest on file, which was of great help. It included witness testimony from the man who found Painter wandering West 6th Avenue calling for help, and how he got him to the hospital. With the inquest file, the UBC Library Rare Books Special Collections records showing how constables were appointed, and copies of the Railway Act of 1911, I was able to put together a proposal. It included an endorsement from Chief LePard and an explanation of how Metro Vancouver Transit Police is a succeeding agency. It was accepted and his name was added to the memorial.

Senior Library Assistant, Felicie de la Parra and Vivian Yan, Public Service Library Assistant work through the BC Electric fonds with Cst. Walker.

Tell us about the sources that you found most helpful at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections that helped you with your search.

I had to refer to the BC Electric fonds. While Painter’s death was one of the most important things I discovered, much what we know about transit policing in BC resides in the RBSC collection.Early records include letters of appointment for constables, lists of locations where they were deployed, and even reports on their activities. Later files include newspaper clippings of transit related crime including robberies and thefts. The most interesting files are from the years 1904 to 1918 and include the names of many of the people who were early protectors of the streetcar and transit system. My favourite item is one describing how a constable was suspected of taking a drink while on duty while posted to the terminal at 425 Carrall Street in 1909. The railway hired a private detective agency to pose as streetcar employees to monitor his activities. Their observations make for an interesting peek into the goings on at Hastings and Carrall during that time period. The constable was followed into the nearby hotel bars and was fired as a result. 

One of several reports Cst. Graham referred to in his research.

Who did you work with at Rare Books and Special Collections and can you tell us a little about how you worked together?

It was by recommendation from the librarian at BC Hydro that I first reached out to RBSC. Through the UBC website I reached librarian Chelsea Shriver, who invited me to attend in person. I had never conducted archival research, so she had to show me the ropes – and was very helpful. I started by asking for a few boxes listed in the BC Electric collection. The library staff walked me through requesting material, and protocols around reproducing information and how to reference my sources. Even when I had questions about the origins of material or was looking for more, they knew right where to look. I’ve returned several times in the hopes of finding more, and I’m lured there still by the chance there are more amazing stories remaining hidden in those boxes.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in the lower mainland to parents (and grandparents) who worked in the justice system. I was an officer with Correctional Service Canada before joining Transit Police, and I have specialized in public relations/communications in policing. A graduate of Thompson Rivers University, I have always had an interest in local history. This project has really piqued my interest though, as it combines my career with my hobby. It was really a pleasure to learn about things which were long forgotten.

What’s next? Any new developments in the Charles Painter story?

Well, S/Cst. Painter’s murder is still technically unsolved. While there was some evidence which surfaced in Steveston in late 1916, the prime suspect was never brought to trial and I’m still searching for a young soldier’s letter which implicated a man with pro-German sentiments as responsible for the murder. In the meantime, our employees have purchased Painter a gravestone which will be dedicated and consecrated at a ceremony on the 102nd anniversary of his death in March.

Cst. Graham Walker at the Provincial Memorial for fallen officers where Cst. Charles Painter’s name has been added.

A private gravestone dedication for Charles Painter will take place on March 21, 2017.


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