January 14, 2009 Library of Congress Leads Nationwide Digitization Effort

“Great Emancipator” Is 25,000th Federal Library Book Scanned Under Open Principles

Press Contact: Jennifer Gavin, Public Affairs (202) 707-1940
Contact: Robin Hatziyannis, FLICC Publications and Education (202) 707-4800

The Library of Congress will digitally scan “The Heroic Life of Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator” as the 25,000th book in its “Digitizing American Imprints” program, which scans aging “brittle” books often too fragile to serve to researchers. The program is sponsored by a $2 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Library, which has contracted with the Internet Archive for digitization services, is combining its efforts with other libraries as part of the open content movement. The movement, which includes over 100 libraries, universities and cultural institutions, aims to digitize and make freely available public-domain books in a wide variety of subject areas.

Books scanned in this pilot project come primarily from the Library’s local history and genealogy sections of the General Collections. For many of these titles, only a few copies exist anywhere in the world, and a reader would need to travel to Washington to view the Library’s copy. Now, the works can be accessed freely online or downloaded for closer inspection or printing. Readers can search the text for individual words, making the digital copy an even more valuable research tool than the original.

“The public can now access a growing digital collection of wonderful and fascinating works from the Library’s vast general collections. Among these works are many American history books that are becoming too fragile to handle physically, as well as a large collection of genealogical materials that are among our most-often-requested items,” said Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services.

“The Library of Congress is preserving knowledge by giving new life to these ‘brittle books.’ The digital files will be accessible online, while the physical volumes will go into long-term special storage,” she said. “This represents one of the many ways the Library of Congress is ensuring continuing and expanding access to its trove of knowledge.”

The Library recognizes the value of digitizing as much of the general collections as funding permits, and it intends to make building this digital collection an integral part of the overall collection-development program. Through a FEDLINK master contract with the Internet Archive, the Library is providing similar scanning services to the federal library community.

“The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is proud to support the Library of Congress in this first-ever mass digitization of books in its vast collection,” said Doron Weber, Sloan Program Director. “In the great tradition of publicly funded libraries, the Library of Congress is leading the way in quality scanning of books that will make the fruits of human knowledge and human culture available to people everywhere in an open, non-exclusive archive. We encourage governments at all levels to champion this cause and to help support the movement to create a universal digital library for the benefit of scholars, researchers, and the general public.”

All scanning operations are housed in the Library’s John Adams Building on Capitol Hill. Internet Archive staff work two shifts each day on 10 “Scribe” scanning stations. The operation can digitize up to 1,000 volumes each week. Shortly after scanning is complete, the books are available online at www.archive.org. Books can be read online or downloaded for more intensive study.

The Library of Congress is actively working with the Internet Archive on the development of a full-featured, open-source page turner. A beta version, called the Flip Book, is currently available on the Internet Archive site.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, founded in 1934, is a philanthropic non-profit that makes grants to support research and education in science, technology and economic performance. Sloan’s program in Digital Information Technology and the Dissemination of Knowledge has supported the Library of Congress, the Internet Archive, Wikipedia, PALINET, the Boston Library Consortium, the Boston Public Library, the Getty, Johns Hopkins, the University of California, Berkeley, the New Orleans Public Library, the Open Content Alliance, and the Open Knowledge Commons.

The Internet Archive is a non-profit organization founded in 1996 to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. The Internet Archive includes texts, audio, moving images, and software as well as archived web pages.

FLICC, part of the Library of Congress, and FLICC’s FEDLINK network have for more than 30 years helped federal library and information centers save effort, time and money when buying and using commercial information services. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages and America’s private sector intellectual and cultural creativity in almost all formats. Many of the Library’s rich resources and treasures may also be accessed through the Library’s Web sites www.loc.gov and myLOC.gov.


PR 09-10
ISSN 0731-3527