Frequently Asked Questions

Why did Earlham School of Religion spend money to put Quaker texs online that are already available online elsewhere?

ESR acknowledges the good work that individuals and organizations have done in putting a selection of early Quaker texts online. What ESR has created is a digital library of Quaker texts (see The NINCH Guide to Good Practice in the Digital Representation and Management of Cultural Heritage Materials). As an academic institution, our primary goal is to provide students and scholars with the means of studying this group of texts. That means not only being able to read the texts (text view or image view) but also to analyze them through powerful search functions. One of the direct audiences for these texts is our distance learning program, ESR Access.

Why did Earlham School of Religion choose to use an outside company rather than work with people already putting texts online?

With the money made available through the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, ESR had the resources to hire experts in the field of digitization of early English texts. It's extremely important, in our view, to comply with current standards. The committee determined that the appropriate format for the digital texts would be XML and that we would follow the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines. By contracting the work with a company who would create the texts and images according to these standards, we were assured of receiving the best -- and the quickest -- product for the money. This company was able to scan nearly 70,000 images and key and encode about 250 books in six months.

Why not create new, modern editions of these works rather than just putting a single edition of a work with its non-standard spelling?

A digital library is intended to be an electronic instance of the print editions held in a library. It is not formally a new edition. ESR encourages scholars who work in early Quaker texts to create critical editions based on the multiple print editions. This type of work is ably done by the Quaker Heritage Press, such as their Robert Barclay, Apology for the True Christian Divinity, 2002. ESR would be happy to talk with anyone creating such texts about how they might use one of our electronic documents as a base text (in XML or transformed to another format).

It is true that regularizing spelling makes it easier to search a text. It also, however, changes the text and becomes a new edition. Rather than changing the original text, we have provided a means for doing an Index Search. Users can see what the variant spellings are and conduct a search that includes them.

How did ESR go about choosing which texts to include?

ESR sought the advice of local Quaker scholars about which texts to include. We wanted the digital library to include foundational documents and ones that represent the broad spectrum of Quakers. These are also texts which were available to us from the Friends Collection of Lilly Library on the campus of Earlham College and Earlham School of Religion. Another requirement was that these texts be in the public domain.

How did you create the browse and search interface?

It was important to us that a search program for these XML texts be an XML-aware search engine. We also did not want to purchase an existing program -- one that a number of other digital libraries use -- because it would also require us to pay annual licensing fees. Another desired feature is that the search engine comply with current open source standards. From the grant money we have been able to pay a team of programmers to create an interface to a search engine which meets all our criteria. We believe this product gives us all the functionality that exists with other more costly and proprietary software packages.

Why do some of the images of pages have faint characters?

The process of creating the images involves removing the background color. When pages are dark, usually due to aging, the contrasting of the image can lead to the letters on the page being more faint. The user has several choices to assist in reading. The most obvious is to use the text view of the page. If you want to read from the image, you are able to increase the size of the image (up to twice the page size without reduction of quality).

Why am I not able to copy the URL of a page in DQC and use that as a link?

The software we use creates a user session. A copied URL won't work without an existing session. We will be implementing a system for static links to the beginning of works. That will be available on the DQC Bibliography page and eventually become catalogued in Earlham's Lilly Library system. (1/27/04)

I'm using Internet Explorer and when I try to view a page image it appears and then disappears. What do I do?

Until this problem is resolved, we suggest that Internet Explorer users try the technique of clearing the cache (deleting cookies and temporary files). When we've been able to reproduce the problem, this technique has solved the problem. (1/27/04)

Sometimes when I do a proximity search the result is not able to be displayed.

The eXist search engine software has a bug in the version currently being used. This bug causes eXist to be unable to cross tag element boundaries. An example is when one term is within an italic tag. In proximity searches the Lucene search engine locates the hit and eXist is used for display, but eXist is not able to detect the hit and displays the "No Hits" message. An update to eXist is now available and is being implemented. (1/27/04)

Why do I find a hyphen where a letter should be?

The quality check procedure required that keyers only enter a character if they were absolutely sure of the character. The method was to insert a hyphen in the text and enclose the hyphen with an "unclear" tag. We are now beginning the process of clearing the unclears. (1/27/04)