Louise Cook

Side profile of Louise Cook

Meet Digital Imaging Technician, Louise Cook, who works in our Digitisation North studio at Boston Spa.

Louise’s role

Louise works in our Digitisation North studio at Boston Spa. Her role involves the digitisation of print and microfilm for various projects using a range of imaging equipment, such as microfilm and overhead scanners (which can handle sizes up to A0). During her eight years as a Digitisation team member, Louise has built up a wealth of experience handling a huge variety of items, materials and formats.

Louise’s portfolio has included the digitisation of PhD database EthOS, our own publishing archives, external projects for the Royal Society of Chemistry and collaborative efforts such as Two Centuries of Indian Print. This project involved digitising some of our extensive Asian and African literature collection to share online. Louise shares with us one memorable project that showed a different side to the story of the ill-fated liner, Titanic.

Most recent project

'I’ve only just finished working on the digitisation of medical records for the charity Blind Veterans. This involved scanning in excess of 100,000 pages. The images should be helpful in future research, for medical treatments and rehabilitation.'

Louise has also recently completed digitising the Highway Code Act from 1931, a wonderful snapshot offering insight into the history of how our roads were used.

'I love the images of the policeman directing traffic and I especially love the hand signals!'

Where it all began

Louise used to work in our OnDemand team, suppling copies of articles and loans to individuals and businesses in the UK and across the world. During this period in her career, she spent a lot of time in the storage areas on our site at Boston Spa and often assisted in the digitisation process. Her experience with the storage areas added significant value to her role within the Digitisation team. She understands the cataloguing systems, how different materials need to be stored, and how to handle some of the items in our collection as a result.

Best thing about working at the Library

'I love how unique it is and how the Library is committed to opening up access to everyone. Books were meant to be read. The digitisation of these collection items is a brilliant way of sharing material with thousands of people that wouldn’t otherwise be able to see or read them.'

Most memorable projects

It’s clear that there have been many projects have had an impact on Louise and stayed with her.

Titanic

She recalls a collection of newspapers about the ill-fated liner Titanic, from 1912.

'A few years ago I remember scanning a newspaper which had an image of the launching of Titanic, and all the excitement that went with it. But this was digitised alongside another story about its demise during its maiden voyage.'

The story of Titanic is of course a tragic one, but what we don’t often hear about is the optimism shared by the nation for the cutting-edge engineering advancements that Titantic represented at the time. Digitising historic newspapers doesn’t just preserve the physical item for future generations but offers us a way to understand different perspectives of people who lived through these events and look back at history with hindsight.

The Examiner newspaper featuring the Titanic. Saturday 20 April 1912

The Library of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Louise also worked on a major project digitising books for the Library of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

'The collection included some 16th-century books, a few of which had never been opened. They were in such good condition, especially considering they were 500 years old. It was a privilege to have them entrusted to us.'

We’ve digitised thousands of treasured items like these. Our studio team receive full training on the safe handling and storage of old and fragile items, from both a digitisation and conservation perspective.

A Manuscript from the Library of the Royal Society of Chemistry

Two Centuries of Indian Print

Louise also digitised items as part of our Two Centuries of Indian Print project.

'I digitised rare and unique printed books from our own South Asian collection of which most were written in Bengali or Sanskrit. Our digitisation allowed the catalogue records to automate searching and aid discovery by researchers.'

The project allowed for the creation of interactive maps and data visualisation showing the activity of book printers operating in 19th-century Kolkata. The digitisation of the materials also allowed the project to deliver digital skills workshops and training sessions at Indian institutions to support innovative new research within South Asian studies.

You can discover highlights from the digitised collection available through our online exhibition Early Indian printed books.

Favourite object

Our Boston Spa site in West Yorkshire is home to the British Newspaper Archive. For Louise, being able to access and digitise this growing collection of historic and modern newspapers is a definite favourite.

'We’ve worked on papers from the mid-1700s onwards, and the style of reporting and the formatting of the papers has changed immensely. Earlier papers were almost all in print with little to no images. The text is tiny and crammed onto huge sheets of paper. Articles reported the facts plain and simple.'

Looking ahead

Since reopening our studios in June 2020 Louise and the team have seen a large increase in requests for items including microfilm copies of manuscripts.

Microfilm contains tiny exposures of images of documents, newspapers, books, manuals and other information. During the 20th century many businesses and organisations chose to copy information on microfilm to save space.

'I find the microfilm scanner quite interesting to use and I’m looking forward to using this more and developing my knowledge and understanding of this equipment further. Many of the British Library’s old and fragile manuscripts were copied onto microfilm 20 or so years ago, therefore, instead of using original documents – which could have conservation issues – we’re now able use microfilm surrogates to provide copies to customers.'

Book recommendations

'Definitely one of my favourite books is The World of Pooh – which contains the stories Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner – by A A Milne, and illustrated by E H Shepard. A beautifully written and illustrated treat, and not just for children!'

Open up access to your archive. Speak to one of our experts about digitisation today.