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Library of Congress Makes Mark in Nationwide Digitization Endeavor


Members of the ALA Washington Office attended a celebratory event at the Library of Congress yesterday.  In its new nationwide digitization effort, the Library will scan its 25,000th book from the Library’s collection — “The Heroic Life of Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator” — a children’s book.  Funded by a $2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and in collaboration with the Internet Archive, and over 100 libraries, universities and cultural institutions involved in the open content movement, the nation’s library is playing a leading role to ensure those works in the public domain held by the Library, once digitized, will continue to be accessible and preserved.

There are over 34 million titles in the Library of Congress collection, so 25,000 books may not seem like a very impressive number. However, few citizens have the opportunity to visit the Library. Many of the titles scanned are only available at the Library of Congress, and some are too fragile for public use. Unlike commercial digitization initiatives, the full content of a scanned book is freely available to the public. One can copy, download, and “re-purpose” these works.  There are no limitations.  Readers can search for individual words in a text, making the digital archive more valuable to researchers and the general public. Notable is the superior quality of the scans, offered in full color and with all images intact.  Federal library collections will also be included in the project.

“Even though private funding may run out and digitization progress may slow, this important collaboration between libraries and open content institutions will ensure that the collection that belongs to the public remains freely accessible,” said Carrie Russell, Director of the Program on Public Access to Information at ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy. “Perhaps it is because it’s a new year, or because we’re beginning fresh with the new administration, but I feel optimistic that information access for all is not just a dream of our nation’s founders.”

Read the full press release.

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Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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