Nearly 60,000 books prized by historians, writers and genealogists, many too old and fragile to be safely handled, have been digitally scanned as part of the first-ever mass book-digitization project of the U.S. Library of Congress (LOC), the world’s largest library. Anyone who wants to learn about the early history of the United States, or track the history of their own families, can read and download these books for free.
“The Library chose books that people wanted, but that were too old and fragile to serve to readers. They won’t stand up to handling,” said Michael Handy, who co-managed the project, which is called Digitizing American Imprints. ...
The Library of Congress has digitized many of its other collections — more than 7 million photographs, maps, audio and video recordings, newspapers, letters and diaries can be found at the Library’s Digital Collections site, such as the popular American Memory and the multilingual Global Gateways collections — but “this is the first sustained book-digitization project on a high-volume basis,” Handy said. ...
A $2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation inaugurated the LOC book digitization project. One of the grant’s objectives was “to address some of the issues that other book digitization projects had mainly avoided dealing with — for instance, the brittle book issue,” Handy said. “We established some procedures and preservation treatments to be able to scan books that otherwise couldn’t be scanned.” ...
Handy said, “More funding will be sought to keep this going after this year. This is just the beginning.”
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.