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“I see a collaborative project!”

I’m going to reprint James’ comment from Wednesday on the Michigan digitization project here because I think it merits some serious discussion.  There were a series of comments on the way the government documents have been cataloged in the Michigan catalog because the variance in cataloging has caused a lot of the documents to be barred from public viewing "due to copyright":

I see a collaborative project!  it’d be great to be proactive on UMich’s govt pubs. Rather than having to submit a form when an item is found that should be accessible/in the public domain, wouldn’t it be cool if UMich put up a list of all their documents (in a wiki?) and let the community/public have at it to verify "public domainness" of documents. Documents classes could assign reviewing as well.

There is precedent for this kind of collaborative project. In 2006, the federal government set up a Web site to make public a vast archive of Iraqi documents captured during the war (which was later shut down because detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research were available publicly! oops!!). A site called LibriVox has volunteers who read chapters of public domain books, many of which have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.The point is, let’s leverage the power of the internet to help get govt information out to the public!

As it happens, right after I read James’ comment I was in a meeting where I found out about another project occurring at the law school library at Rutgers University.  The project, Congressional Documents Online, is a full-text archive of Congressional Hearings and Committee Prints from the Rutgers law library collection.  The Law Library is in the process of digitizing its print collection of Congressional documents and the website says that there are "7064 documents available, totalling: 1581950 pages, 238814558897 total bytes, as of: Wed Dec 19 14:47:37 EST 2007".  All are freely available online.  There’s a simple search box and a browseable list of the documents.

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