Soon, digitized versions of unique and rare books owned by Northeastern’s University Libraries and other New England libraries will be available to researchers, thanks to a major new digital project partnership between the Boston Library Consortium (BLC) and the Open Content Alliance. This recently launched project will enrich and enhance the size and volume of the web-based Internet Archive and will be a conduit to make key materials held by Northeastern and partner libraries available all over the world.
“This is the start of something big,” said Will Wakeling, acting Dean of Northeastern University Libraries. “This project is part of the leading edge of producing a universal, openly accessible digital library.”
The BLC is the first large-scale consortium to embark on such a self-funded digitization project with the Open Content Alliance. The BLC is an association of academic and research libraries located in New England dedicated to sharing human and information resources to advance the research and learning of its constituency.
Northeastern University Libraries is one of 19 members of the BLC, which includes the Boston Public Library, Boston College, Boston University, MIT and UMass, all of which will be contributing to the new digital library. This two-year project will draw from the 34 million volumes of material available within the BLC and digitize five million pages to be accessed by anyone with access to the Internet.
The advantage of the Internet Archive over the Google digitization projects and other commercial entities is that in its very mission, the Internet Archive commits to preserve and make accessible digital content that is completely open and accessible. Commercial entities may have other, conflicting, business-driven agendas, and researchers cannot depend on them for the future to provide free, open, accessible and re-usable content.
To contribute to the Internet Archive, Northeastern’s Research and Instruction Librarians will work with faculty to identify key works and compelling content to digitize. “The Library is looking forward to getting advice from faculty and researchers on which books would benefit their students and the world by being given priority to be digitized,” said Wakeling.
The BLC’s digitization efforts will be based in the new Northeast Regional Scanning Center at the Boston Public Library. Northeastern will contribute funding and material and get its own digital copy to use locally, in addition to access to all volumes via online.
“It is an ideal partnership, because at Northeastern we do not have in-house the equipment and expertise necessary to digitize on such a massive scale,” said Maria Carpenter, Library Advancement and Communications Officer.
The Internet Archive will offer high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of public domain materials, and the Northeastern community will have access to rare, historical and unique books and sources in the collection they can use for their papers and research.
“This is the direction in which libraries are going,” said Carpenter. “The movement to digitize libraries is happening at a rapid pace and we think it is imperative that NU Libraries be part of the action.”
“The physical limitations of Snell Library will dissolve as we start to see material of our own appearing on open websites like the Internet Archive,” said Wakeling. “We are contributing to a great global project.”
For more information about the Internet Archive see http://www.archive.org.