17 February 2007

Library of Congress: A new project to scan "brittle" books

A $2 million grant has been given to the Library of Congress by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to digitize thousands of public-domain works, focusing on at-risk "brittle" books and U.S. history volumes. The project is set to begin in a few months.

The recently announced award will enable the LOC to scan volumes, develop page-turner display technology and the capability to scan and display foldouts. It will also include a pilot program to capture high-level metadata, such as table of contents, chapters/sections and indexes.

Many previous digitization projects have avoided the brittle books because of their condition, the but "Digitizing American Imprints" project is intended to serve as a demonstration of the best practices for handling and scanning at-risk works.

Dr. James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress, said
"It is inspiring to think that one of these books, many of which are in physical jeopardy, might spark the creativity of a future scholar or ordinary citizen who otherwise might not have had access to this wealth of human understanding."

"We are delighted to partner with the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library, in this historic digitization effort," said Doron Weber, Sloan Foundation program director. "A significant number of books from the Library’s great collection will now be available to anyone in the world in an open, non-exclusive and non-profit setting, thus bringing the ideal of a universal digital library closer to reality."

The works to be digitized include at-risk books relevant to U.S. genealogy including many useful county, state and regional histories, in addition to American history, regimental histories and photography.

To read more about this project, the Sloan Foundation or the LOC, click here.

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