Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Libraries consider role in digitization

Andy Guess, Post-Microsoft, Libraries Mull Digitization, Inside Higher Ed, May 30, 2008.
Microsoft’s announcement last Friday that it would discontinue its book- and journal-scanning initiatives left its partners at university research libraries pondering the future of efforts to digitize materials in their archives. Analysts said the software giant was refocusing on its strengths, in effect conceding the digitization arena to Google, the company that in 2004 first started working with universities on book scanning — to some fanfare as well as controversy. Libraries increasingly see digitization as a preservation strategy. While Microsoft’s departure probably won’t cause significant upheaval, it will reinforce for universities the necessity of ensuring that they retain the rights to their scanned materials — or that their digitization projects will be around next semester, let alone forever. One way to do that is to continue pursuing internal, proprietary scanning projects which, for many libraries, existed for years before Google and Microsoft made it possible to vastly increase their scope and scale. Another is to work with nonprofit initiatives. But if there’s one thing libraries agree on, it’s that the competition between the two companies was healthy. ... One alternative, besides Google, is the realm of private, open-source scanning efforts. The major player in this arena so far is the Internet Archive, which for now is looking for stopgap funding. But Kahle, in a blog post, sounded optimistic: “Onward to a completely public library system!” ... “So now it’s time for the public sphere to build digital services,” he said in the interview. “And fortunately, a lot of the R&D is already done. But that does mean that it has to be funded and brought forward by we libraries. But that’s what we libraries are supposed to do.” Kahle added that, as “the Web has always worked,” he foresaw a return to “many different organizations” competing, or working in concert, to continue the progress made so far in digitizing library reserves. ...