A Fountain of Information
The state of Idaho’s water-rich landscape is recognized as a mecca for water research, and it has been the subject of decades of studies to better understand climate change, water management, and other global challenges surrounding water resources.
So imagine Jodi Haire’s surprise when she discovered the state’s blatant absence from the Western Waters Digital Library, the world’s primary clearinghouse of information and research on water in the western United States.
“There was a map of all the participants in this huge digital collection, and Idaho wasn’t there. I thought, ‘Why isn’t Idaho contributing to any of this?’” said Haire, who came across the online resource in 2006 while pursuing her master’s degree in environmental sciences at the University of Idaho.
She soon got her answer: The state’s missing presence in this internationally important digital library wasn’t due to a lack of relevant information to contribute, but rather to a lack of access to it.
“We have some really key watersheds in Idaho – including the Snake River and the Columbia River,” she said. “I thought it was important to give people easier access to the University of Idaho’s rich knowledge and historical research on water resources.”
Haire, a longtime staff member at the University of Idaho Library, decided to take matters into her own hands as part of her final project for her master’s degree. With the support of Lynn Baird, dean of Library Services, Haire developed the Idaho Waters Digital Library, a special online collection of water-related information and research in Idaho.
She began with boxes of hard-copy documents from the Idaho Water Resources Research Institute (IWRRI), a University of Idaho program that supports and directs water research programs statewide. Haire spent two years digitizing IWRRI reports, transcripts and other research publications dating back to 1965.
“The new digital library is a one-stop shop for water research information,” she said. “With a click, people can easily search and download an entire report.”
Many of the newly digitized documents have also been integrated into the Western Waters Digital Library.
“One of my main goals was to put Idaho on the [Western Waters Digital Library] map,” Haire said. “Now, scientists, policymakers, and practicing professionals from all over the world can use Idaho’s water research and information to solve water problems everywhere, not just in Idaho.”
The ongoing project, which has been assumed by the University of Idaho Library’s Digital Collections department, will eventually house more than 530 water research documents and will continue to grow.
“These types of special collections offer a fabulous benefit because this is how we, as a land-grant institution, can preserve and share the treasures of Idaho with the rest of the world,” Baird said.