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Check out Digitization Diva at http://digitizationdiva.blogspot.com. According to blogger Christy Allen, a librarian at the North Carolina State Library, this blog “focuses primarily on the topics of digitization and Web 2.0 in a government library setting.”
Recent posts have included a write up of a Best Practices Exchange 2007 session on Web 2.0 in State libraries that I wasn’t able to attend and a listing of some interesting looking image collections and how they were promoting themselves via web 2.0 technologies.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about my experiences at the 2007 Best Practices Exchange in Chandler, Arizona. You can find all of my other postings at
I wanted to close my coverage with a note of praise for my fellow state documents librarians and archivists. While we could have simply have linked to agency resources and allowed them to control libraries’ level of access, most people working in state libraries and archives recognize their responsibility to collect, describe, preserve and provide meaningful enduring access to their state’s publications. Whether we try to disburse the publications as Alaska does using LOCKSS, or make their publications available for easy downloading like other states, we are libraries taking custody of electronic government publications. We make mistakes, but we try and in many cases are starting to build examples for others to follow.
So, if you’re involved in federal government information, review our presentations at the Exchange and see if you might be able to start to take custody of the high-profile federal publications that might not stick around if left to the government’s devices and short-sighted funding priorities.
As I mentioned in my previous posting on the 2007 Best Practices Exchange, we had two keynote speakers.
Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive was our second keynote and was an inspiration for those of us trying to be good custodians of electronic government information. Brewster told us that our generation had the opportunity to build “Universal Access to All Knowledge” that will be “Free to All.” He then worked his way through different kinds of tangible media to demonstrate how they could be digitized cheaply and easily. He waived away copyright concerns, which I accepted since he was talking in terms of technology.
I found Brewster most convincing about digitizing audio and video. He estimated that it would take roughly 20-40 million dollars to digitize existing analog audio and noted that the Internet Archive already had 100,000 items in over 100 collections. Moving images could be scanned at the rate of $200/hr and video for $15/hr.
I found him the least convincing about digitizing text, even though he seemingly spent the most effort on it.
Briefly, he stated that the Library of Congress held 28 million books containing about 28TB of data. At the current cost of hard disk storage, just $60,000 would be enough to store all 28 million books. The Internet Archive has been able to make great strides in digitizing equipment and Brewster said that they can digitize 12,000 books a month at a cost of $30/book. He stated that at those costs, the entire LC collection could be scanned for approximately $800,000,000, a very reasonable figure.
However, he failed to mention that at a rate of 12,000 books a month, it would take a little over 194 years to digitize 28 million books. That figure might have been in the back of Brewster’s mind because he stated that although $800 million would be enough to digitize all of the Library of Congress, digitizing one million books might be enough to significantly advance knowledge. This figure could be accomplished in as little as seven years and aside from social/political concerns is very doable.
About those concerns, Brewster faced them head on after taking us through the technology. He quoted someone as saying that “technology is easy, people are hard!” He talked about the Internet Archives work in fighting the seemingly
unlimited extensions of copyright and their efforts bringing orphan works into the public domain. He framed the issue as one of whether the future should be public or private; open or proprietary. Perhaps the right phrase, Brewster suggested is “public or perish.” He certainly won’t get an argument from us folks at Free Government Information on that.
A few other items from his talk:
- The $100 laptop is real. Well, it’s $175, but it is real and has a very clear readout. Brewster passed around a laptop with a children’s e-book on it. You paged through it with buttons.
- The Internet Archive has developed a bookbinding machine that can print books fro $0.01/page or a 300 page book for $3.00. We saw slides of the machine in action in the developing world. We saw a finished product and it seemed like a decent binding.
- A library at the University of Illinois is scanning items from their microfilm collection at the rate of 10-30 reels a day. Internet Archive provided the scanning equipment free and the library provides staffing.
At Best Practices Exchange 2007, I listened to Todd Welch talk about the Colorado Plateau Digital Archives at http://www.nau.edu/library/speccoll in the context of his work with OAI (Open Archives Initiative) compliant data.
I’ve heard about OAI, read articles about OAI and even had fellow FGI volunteers explain OAI to me but for some reason it didn’t take. It kept being some technical standard that I probably know something about but made my eyes glaze over when it was mentioned.
But Todd’s talk changed that. I still don’t know OAI well enough to try to explain here and my notes from his session are somewhat thin. But I now have a good grasp of WHY it’s important.
Designing databases and other applications to by OAI compliant allows other people to harvest data about about your project and reuse it in other applications. For example, OAIster gathers descriptive data (metadata) about collections around the world and makes them searchable in one place.
There are benefits to narrower applications than OAIster. For example, Todd said that if other states in his area ran OAI compliant databases that could both generate and import data in OAI format, all of the states could build stronger collections about the Colorado Plateau because all the bordering states would have each others records to search.
So now I get that part and hope I’ve communicated a little of the magic to you. It’s enough that I’m now at least somewhat interested in finding a way to issue my state’s depository shipping lists in an OAI compliant format, but I’m not sure where to begin. My list is generated by our SIRSI Unicorn system and then reformatted in Word for the print version and finally marked up in HTML for web access and LOCKSS harvesting. I’d need a solution that added very little work to what I’m already doing. Any ideas out there?