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D-Lib Magazine
November/December 2007

Volume 13 Number 11/12

ISSN 1082-9873

News about Digitization Projects

Over the past few years, information has appeared in this magazine's articles, brief items and editorials about several large and ambitious digitization efforts, and some of the collections resulting from the digitization projects and programs have been given special attention as D-Lib's monthly "Featured Collections." This month's editorial highlights recent news about three digitization efforts now underway.

The Washington Post, International Herald Tribune, New York Times and The Independent (UK) all published articles about the October 17 launch – at the UNESCO General Conference in Paris – of the prototype of the World Digital Library. The World Digital Library has as its primary goal "to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research." It will make available digitized content of primary resources – in many formats and several languages – free of charge over the Internet. The World Digital Library's partners in this effort include the US Library of Congress, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the National Library of Brazil, the National Library and Archives of Egypt, the National Library of Russia, the Russian State Library, and UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Although the World Digital Library will not be offering content until late next year, the project's web site ( is now available and offers a video allowing viewers to see how such content will be presented.

On October 22, The New York Times published an article by Katie Hafner about library digitization projects that included a pointer to an announcement by the Boston Library Consortium, Inc., (BLC) regarding BLC's partnership agreement with the Open Content Alliance "to build a freely accessible library of digital materials from all 19 member institutions" – collectively comprised of over 34 million volumes no longer under copyright. The Times article also referred to the Internet Archive's plans to scan out-of-print, in-copyright works from the Boston Public Library and the library of the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. These latter works will be distributed via digital interlibrary loan in compliance with copyright restrictions.

Three years ago, I wrote an editorial about the then hot news item concerning Google's agreement with five research libraries (Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, the University of Oxford, and the New York Public Library) to digitize millions of books in their collections. Since then, several other research libraries have reached agreement with Google or with other commercial and non-commercial organizations to digitize their libraries' collections, and as a result, the availability of and access to digital content has grown exponentially. Yet two questions posed in my 2004 editorial remain largely unanswered: What might be the unintended consequences of the growth of digital content and the potential for increasingly universal access to it? And because information is never really "free," what kind of economic models will be needed to sustain the creation, organization, maintenance, access and preservation of digital information over the long term?

Perhaps as the projects discussed in this month's editorial reach fruition, the answers to these two questions will become clear.

Bonita Wilson


Copyright© 2007 Corporation for National Research Initiatives

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