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[ARSCLIST] Volunteerism (was Re: [ARSCLIST] Louisiana Library Association Disaster Relief Fund)
> Also, in defense of librarians and archivists with multiple priorities and
> few resources, it's actually extremely time-consuming and costly to scan
> entire collections and make them web-accessible, especially with large or
> odd-size items, and most especially if there are any copyright or other
> legal considerations, such as rules set by the donor of the materials.
> There's also the fact that understaffed and underfinanced institutions are
> also responsible for other duties, such as reference and other user
> services, collection development, cataloging of new items if they're also
> a regular library, etc. It's just not that simple an issue. As others have
> noted, it's not as if we don't WANT to do digital preservation.
Definitely libraries and archives are strapped for cash, and usually
have limited funds for digital preservation activities because of more
pressing needs. The "tyranny of the urgent."
However, being familiar with Project Gutenberg, Distributed
Proofreaders, the Internet Archive, and OurMedia, which represent a
few of the "new wave" in digital preservation activites (focused on
preserving Public Domain and Creative Commons works), I think that
more traditional libraries and archives need to "think outside the
These "new wave" digital perservation projects show the power of
volunteerism to substantially drive down costs. They show there are
thousands of people, willing to work for free, who will gladly do the
tedious tasks involved with certain types of digital preservation. So
long as the works they preserve can be made freely available on the
Internet, they will be highly motivated. I am involved as an
occasional volunteer in several digitization activies, such as
Distributed Proofreaders: http://www.pgdp.net/c/default.php .
(Obviously not all works held by libraries and archives can be
digitized and placed online due to copyright and contract issues,
but many can.)
Digitizing sound recordings is a more specialized area, requiring
high-end equipment and special training to do properly, thus it is
more difficult (but not impossible) to involve volunteers. But not so
with most text materials. It is relatively easy to train volunteers
to operate high-quality scanners, which is the most mundane and
time-consuming (and thus expensive) part of digitizing textual
In addition, for textual works which can be digitized and placed
online, the Internet Archive will gladly accept copies. This will
preserve (and mirror) the works, and make them available online.
And in my chats with Brewster Kahle, the founder of IA, he may even
loan high-quality scanning equipment for certain volunteer-driven
scanning projects just so he can acquire copies of the scans.
In short, there are definitely opportunities for libraries and
archives to leverage volunteers to help digitally preserve certain
materials. Hopefully many libraries and archives won't let
institutional constraints, and a certain mindset I all too often
see with traditional archives, prevent them from even considering
the possibilities of volunteerism in their collection digitization
With respect to the interests of this mailing list, archives of sound
recordings, there are undoubtedly collections of textual material
associated with sound recordings, the recording industry, and music in
general. For public domain stuff (and note that in the U.S. the vast
majority of textual works between 1923 and 1963 are public domain due
to non-renewal), it will be possible to find volunteers to scan the
materials and to submit the scans to Distributed Proofreaders for
conversion into highly-proofed and structured digital texts, which are
very useful as an adjunct to the original page scans.