UO Libraries
Digital Collections

About - Columbia River Basin

Project Background

Selkirk on the Columbia River above Wenatchee

The University of Oregon Libraries are participating in a collaborative project to develop a digital collection of print, image, cartographic, and other format materials relating to the waters of the Western United States. The project is partially funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and is administered centrally by the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) of which the UO Libraries are a member.

The Western Waters Digital Library (WWDL) is a distributed collection of materials from research institutions in the Western United States of America. Each participating institution will mount its own digital collection of WWDL materials and will also contribute metadata about the materials to a central database. The central database, which currently includes items from five of the participating institutions, including the University of Oregon, can be found at: http://www.westernwaters.org/

The University of Oregon Libraries are digitizing text, historical photographs, maps, aerial photographs, and other materials relating to the Columbia River basin, primarily in Oregon. Materials relating to the Willamette River Basin will also be included.

Statement of Need

In the original grant application, the need for such a collection of materials was articulated as shown below:

The American West was settled and developed because of its abundant natural resources, especially its great rivers. Now, high rates of population growth in mostly arid areas, intense competition for agricultural water, manufacturing and people, and concern about deteriorating health of aquatic ecosystems and water quality create an urgent need for effective water policy planning and management in the western states. If westerners are to meet the challenge of managing their water resources wisely in the 21st century, they will need access to well-organized, comprehensive information sources and analysis based on high quality scientific research and accurate historical records. In its final report in 1998, the Western Water Policy Commission stated, "Ideally. ...water data should be collected and archived on a river-basin basis, and every effort should be made to make the data easily available to all basin agencies and the public."

In the final report to the Forest Habitat Research Program in 1998, Oregon State University researchers expressed an urgent need, based on interviews with natural resource professionals, for an information cooperative. This proposed information center had a two-pronged mission: 1) to improve the flow of threatened and endangered species information between those who generate it and those who use it, and 2) to improve the flow of information on threatened and endangered species among scientists and organizations who generate new information. (Forestry, Fish, and Wildlife Information Study, 1998)

In an interview study commissioned by the Oregon State University Libraries in 2001, researchers, policy makers, educators, state and federal government planners called for easy to find, retrieve, integrate and synthesize geo-referenced and well-organized documents, maps, spatial data, computer models, databases, spreadsheets, analytical results, video, audio, and photographs, satellite imagery, presentation materials, and people contacts for terrestrial, aquatic and marine environments. Their most urgent need - watershed level information.

At present there is no federal agency, no state agency, no single organization or collaborative group that provides such a comprehensive information resource to researchers, policy makers, educators, and citizens. The Greater Western Library Alliance (Big 12 Plus Libraries Consortium) proposes to create a Western Waters Digital Library to meet this crucial need. The project will simultaneously create a demonstration model of a subject-based, multi-format database that will take advantage of metadata harvesting, open access protocols, and other emerging technologies.


Last revision: 03/12/2015
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Digital Library Services, University of Oregon Libraries