Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Digitize Thousands of Brittle Books

Grant to Help Digitize Thousands of Books - The Library Today (Library of Congress):

"$2 Million Sloan Foundation Grant To Help Digitize Thousands of Books

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington today announced that the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded the Library of Congress a $2 million grant for a program to digitize thousands of public-domain works, with a major focus on at-risk 'brittle books' and U.S. history volumes.

The project, 'Digitizing American Imprints at the Library of Congress,' will include not only the scanning of volumes, but also the development of suitable page-turner display technology, capability to scan and display foldouts, and a pilot program to capture high-level metadata, such as table of contents, chapters/sections and index. Past digitization projects have shied away from brittle books because of the condition of the materials, but 'Digitizing American Imprints' intends to serve as a demonstration project of best practices for the handling and scanning of such vulnerable works.

'‘Digitizing American Imprints’ will make a major contribution to the collective body of knowledge that is accessible worldwide, further democratizing the information that is a key to functional societies and economies,' Dr. Billington said.

The Library of Congress’ proposal includes digitization of works in the following categories:

  • "Brittle books" from across the Library’s General Collection.
  • American history.
  • U.S. genealogy and regimental histories. The former includes many useful county, state and regional histories, while the latter includes histories, memoirs, diaries and other collections from the Civil War period.
  • Six collections of Rare Books including the Benjamin Franklin Collection, selections from the Katherine Golden Bitting and the Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collections of Gastronomy, a selection of first editions from the Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division, selections from the Confederate States of America Collection, the Henry Harrisse Collection of Columbiana, and selections from the Jean Hersholt Collection of Hans Christian Andersen.
  • Works of photography focusing on the technical aspects of photography and the artistic publications and biographies of photographers.

Digitizing American Imprints will utilize the "Scribe" scanning technology of the Open Content Alliance. Scanning is expected to begin within a few months after an initial startup period to establish logistics, staffing and resources."

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 134 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. As the world’s largest repository of knowledge and creativity, the Library is a symbol of democracy and the principles on which America was founded. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation, both on-site in its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning Web site at


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