‘It started here’: Student employee finds purpose in donor-funded digitization project

Paging through 100-year-old articles of photogenic baby contests and agricultural weather reports, Rebekah Rahman felt she was serving something bigger than herself. 

“There’s a lot of pride I feel when I finish an article because someone will use this. Someone will need this,” she said. 

Since 2022, third-year Rahman has digitized newspaper clippings for the Kimble Digitization Center, a project funded by donors Wallace and Marilyn Kimble to preserve Washington state and Palouse history. 

Her particular box of state history spans 45 sections, some with more than 100 articles, and she has only 10 sections left to go. 

Rahman scans the articles and crops them in Adobe Photoshop before transcribing them and tagging specific people and places in the images, which may help community members researching topics like genealogy or climate. She likes the idea that she is bridging the gap between historical documents and the public, making these “untapped resources” accessible. 

“While I’m just seeing this long list of farmers from somewhere in the middle of Timbuktu, that’s probably someone’s grandfather who they’ve maybe never met,” she said. “To that person, it would mean the world just to see their name in print somewhere.”

Joleen Warner, Rahman’s manager, said students bring a unique perspective and background to the collection they digitize, shaping specific word usage and transcription in a way that reflects their voice. 

Warner said she admires Rahman’s organization in balancing her course load and two part-time jobs. When Warner steps into Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC), she knows Rahman is completing her work without question. 

“She’s kind of like Superwoman,” Warner said. 

Rahman studied public relations with a minor in business administration, but she always saw herself in a library position in school. After sending her resume to nearly all the libraries’ supervisors, she heard from the Kimble Center. 

“At the time, I had no idea what Kimble was. It felt like, “What’s this secret project?’”

Now, Rahman said she feels it is a privilege to do her work. Not only is she working toward preserving history, but she also enjoys grabbing free coffee on Fridays and chatting with her MASC “work besties” or visiting the Kimble Center to decompress in the safe space when she is not on the clock. 

“It’s like a second home,” she said. 

The rigors of radio

Each morning, Rahman wakes up at 3:50 a.m., stumbling outside in the dark toward Murrow Hall.

She produces Northwest Public Broadcasting’s “Morning Edition,” editing pre-recorded content and stories into newscasts broadcasted by radio at the top of every hour until 8 a.m.

By 7 a.m., the coffeepot is on. 

“Someone needs to start that early,” she said with a laugh. “Maybe that should be me.”

Rahman said she loves hearing news before everyone else, whether it’s environmental stories or federal legislation. NWPB serves the eastern Washington region, especially rural farmers or older generations dedicated to waking up at 5 a.m. and listening to the news. 

Rahman began working as a student producer in fall 2023, and her first newscast was “scary.” She had been training with the host of another show, and her own host was late for the first time because his car broke down. Rahman sat in her booth, thinking, “Oh my God, what do I do?” for 30 minutes before her host arrived and helped finish the newscast.

Throughout her experience at NWPB and her coursework as a public relations major, Rahman discovered she wanted to become a publicist and represent people who can’t market themselves. 

Finding her way back home

Rahman moved to Issaquah, Washington, her sophomore year of high school from South Carolina. She said she disliked the toxic academic competitiveness and lack of school spirit in this place that was far from her small, Southern town.

When a close friend mentioned WSU, Rahman soon found herself at the online New Coug Orientation, where the Coug spirit was palpable. 

“I could feel it,” she said. “I could feel what it meant to be a Coug.”

Rahman said there is something special about standing in football stadiums surrounded by Cougs, knowing when to clap only when everyone else does. 

Yet she struggled to find a community on campus. 

Once she joined the WSU Libraries’ staff, that changed. 

Her work gave her one more thing to look forward to and encouraged her to build communities in spaces like English Club, Her Campus, and the MASC family. This is her biggest accomplishment to date. 

“It started here,” she said. “It really did.”