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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

How well are mass digitization projects serving scholars?

Peter Brantley, Scholarship and Mass Digitization, O'Reilly Radar, June 28, 2007.  (Thanks to DigitalKoans.)  Excerpt:

I was delighted to hear today that the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has just received a small grant from the Mellon Foundation to study the utility of major mass digitization projects such as Google Book Search, Microsoft Live Book Search, and the Open Content Alliance for scholarship.

To paraphrase some of their supporting grant documentation (not presently online):

We are now either at or very close to the point where the body of originally analogue material now in digital form is of such quantity and quality that we must facilitate the design and operation of broad-scale distributed digital libraries. Looking closely at the quality and functionality of these projects for scholars is vital to making sure that operationalization supports these important social uses, ones that Google and others are not likely have as first priority....

CLIR's project will have several aims:

  1. Assess selected large scale digitization programs by exploring their efficacy and utility for conducting scholarship, in multiple fields or disciplines (humanities, sciences, etc.).
  2. Write and issue a report with findings and recommendations for improving the design of mass digitization projects.
  3. Create a Collegium that can serve in the long-term as an advisory group to mass digitization efforts, helping to assure and obtain the highest possible data quality and utility.
  4. Convene a series of meetings amongst scholars, libraries, publishers, and digitizing organizations to discuss ways of achieving these quality and design improvements.

Update. For more on CLIR's Mellon grant, see the short write-up in CLIR Issues for July/August 2007. From the same issue, also see CLIR's call for comments on its forthcoming white paper (available August 22, 2007) on preserving the digital results of mass-digitization projects.