Barbara Opar and Lucy Campbell, column editors

Column by Leslie Mathews, Head, Art + Architecture Library, Virginia Tech

Assessing the Art + Architecture Library collections this summer, I came across some unique items from Virginia Tech’s Community Design Assistance Center (CDAC), a research and outreach center within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. The Center, located in downtown Blacksburg, provides underserved communities in southwest Virginia with low-cost planning and design assistance while providing students with an opportunity to get paid to work on conceptual plans for real projects. The Center produces spiral bound print publications of conceptual designs created for their clients. Because of their ungainly spiral bindings and potentially low usage I initially considered these items candidates for remote storage. However, after looking into circulation statistics, I found many had significant circulation. Looking more closely at the reports, I found this was a unique collection, relevant to students and locals interested in design for green spaces and urban renewal. I wanted to showcase these unique, local, and highly visual items while simultaneously promoting the valuable work of the Center. I immediately thought of digitizing these items, or making the already digital versions available online, since the Center has been continuously producing reports since 1988.

I reached out to Director of CDAC Elizabeth Gilboy to ask if she had digital copies and if she would like them to be made available online. She was happy to respond yes to both questions and I have now begun the work of adding the documents to our digital institutional repository, VTechWorks, which is crawled by Google and public to the world. At VT Libraries, our dedicated staff works directly with clients to facilitate the loading of data into VTechWorks. This process allowed me to hand off the CDAC account to our Repository Collections Specialist, Melissa Lohrey, who is working with CDAC to extract the necessary data, load it into VTechWorks, and add the appropriate metadata. This allows VT librarians to promote the service as a streamlined process that is advantageous to scholars and others affiliated with VT who want their information not only to be available, but also highly searchable and findable. The documents will also be discoverable as PDFs, Word Documents and a variety of other formats through our iteration of Shared Shelf within the Artstor database.

Now the reports are publicly available online, CDAC can further outreach efforts to potential clients and grant making authorities while inspiring others to do similar work or perhaps provide the impetus other groups need to make a case for urban renewal. Based on statistics tracking views and downloads at the city level, I have been surprised by the level of international interest. Several reports have been viewed in Canada, France, Germany, Australia, and Iran as well as cities from across the United States.

To see the CDAC page on VTechWorks, go to Note that usage statistics are publicly viewable from the last link on the lower right hand column.