Sunday, October 30, 2005

Leave it to Librarians!

According to a press release from RLG, dated 29 October 2005, RLG is partnering with an impressive group of business partners to create a unique online database of books. The partners include the California Digital Library, Adobe (uh-oh!) Yahoo!, HP, Microsoft (oh well....). An ecnouraging thing about this program is that materials to be digitized will be selected and bibliographically described by RLG members and scanned from member libraries. The unique thing will be apparent association with third parties who will, for a fee, bind and deliver hard copy of any materials discovered at the site.

Excerpts from the press release follow:

RLG, a not-for-profit organization of over 150 research libraries, archives, and museums announced today that it will be a contributor to and partner with the Open Content Alliance (OCA) (, a consortium that is building a permanent archive of digitized text and multimedia content. Generally, textual material from the OCA will be free to read, and in most cases, available for saving or printing using formats such as PDF.

The OCA calls this initiative the Open Library Project ( This project will create free Web access to important book collections from around the world. Books are scanned and then offered in an interface for free reading online. The books can be downloaded, shared, and printed for free. They can also be printed for a nominal fee by a third party, who will bind and mail the book to customers. The books are always free to read at the Open Library Web site.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Newcastle (England) City Libraries Launches 24-hour Reference Service

Apparently this service, developed by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council in the UK links up a variety of libraries' reference staffs to be on call via email and online chat to handle any question from patrons. The article on does not explain how the on-call system works, but one does wonder how those late night reference questions are handled....

Google Print's Objective Revealed!

According to a USA Today article, "Google said its objective was to build the world's largest online card catalog."

What's more, "Google Print product manager Adam Smith says the biggest misconception is that Google's master plan is to display entire books online. "We don't have permission to do that," he says. "We're a finding tool, like a digital card catalog."

This is very insightful acknowledgement of what the Google Print initiative is all about. And a welcome one. Many people are tired of hearing how the compute is going to do away with reality as we know it. On the contrary, if it's a useful tool, it will actually enhance reality! That's what progress is all about. Right?

I still maintain that librarians need to be prepared for a rennaisance: free online services like this will mean better access to libraries and greater demand for books. Not only will libraries' collections grow, but our numbers of patrons will too.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

European Commission Announces Plans for Google Digitization Rival

According to a (c|net) article from 3 October 2005:

The European Commission isn't about to sit back and let Google have control over digitizing the world's information--it's planning to turn Europe's "historical and cultural heritage into digital content."

According to an EC announcement on Friday, the aim of the project is to digitize and preserve records of Europe's heritage--including books, film fragments, photographs, manuscripts, speeches and music--and make it available online to all European citizens. To make this happen, the European Union is proposing high-level cooperation between the member states and has set a deadline of Jan. 20, 2006, for first comments on the plans.

The Commission acknowledged that the process of making the resources in Europe's libraries and archives available on the Internet "is not straightforward." It identified three key areas for action: digitization, online accessibility and digital preservation. The Commission also noted that several such initiatives are already under way within Europe, including the Collect Britain project in the United Kingdom, which is backed by the British Library and partly funded by the U.K.'s National Lottery.

-Let the games begin!

University of California, Berkeley, Partners with Yahoo! to Create Digital Library

The Daily Californian, today, reports:

"With the digital support of Yahoo Inc., which will provide its search technology to the project, the materials are scheduled to be made available beginning in the spring of 2006 on the Open Content Alliance Web site, the global consortium building the archive.

"This program will allow UC Berkeley students and researchers to access material at the click of a mouse without having to search the stacks of Doe and Moffitt," said UC spokesperson Jennifer Ward. "It will also be a great convenience to the public, including high school students, who will have access to literature at the universities without having to find transportation to campus."

The literature will be available for download free of charge, opening the door to convenient public access to the historical documents."