I despise duplication of effort.  Therefore, when it came time to begin the planning for the digitization phase of a current project I did a bit of research.

Apparently, Google is not the only one that has been out there digitizing library holdings.  Granted Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive seem to be concentrating on public domain titles (pre-1922). It kind of makes one wonder why duplicate the effort?

I’d say let’s give the world a coke and a scanner and see if we can’t make our culture collection Alexandria available through collaboration.  Or is that already happening?  It seems chaotic at best to the uninitiated.

So as I try to make sense of this in my own world I thought I’d let you grab your own coke, sing your own song of harmony and I’ll give you a list of current digitization projects that I have discovered.

Author’s Note: I do not purport this list to be a complete and comprehensive list of ongoing projects.  These are projects I have stumbled upon while seeking information for another purpose.

Scanning without a coke.The Big Ones

  • Project Gutenberg
  • Internet Archive
  • Google
  • Microsoft’s Live   project has been discontinued but the as is items are still out there for your use and discovery.

Smaller Library Consortia projects with a scope of books and more.

At this point I feel like I’m barely scraping the surface of what is going on in the digitization of libraries.

What is apparent is that digitization is and will continue to happen.  Google is willing to make a private investment that will benefit the public good.  Libraries struggle with funding and human resources necessary to complete a digitization project.  I think I might be ready to let Google provide the coke and scanning robot while we sit back and enjoy the song.

It would be nice to avoid duplication of effort in the digitization projects but that is as impossible as gathering every publication ever into a single physical space.  There are benefits to consortia efforts and even special libraries with very niche collections that take on their own project.

It would be nice though to take comfort in the knowledge that one of the big guys is gonna do all the really important stuff.  Of course, then you get into the definition of what is important and that’s way to librarian for me to debate here.

I’ll settle for some best practices that help all involved in these projects to make the best of their resources both fiscal and human so that the greater good  of access is served well.  Perhaps by the end of my own work I’ll even be able to define some of those best practices.

Constance Ard February 17, 2010