Monday, June 17, 2013

Library Associations Support Canadiana.org/Library and Archives Canada Digitization Project

Last week, a controversy erupted over a proposed deal between Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Canadiana.org, a not-for-profit partnership, to digitize the LAC's vast collections of material.

The fear seems to be that Canadiana.org would be granted a 10-year exclusive license to sell access to many of the materials that are part of Canada's heritage.

The Canadian Library Association (CLA) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) have come out in support of the project and provided more detail about what it involves. What they describe leaves a very different, much more positive impression about the project.

In a letter to Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, CLA writes:
"CLA strongly supports the organizations selected to work with LAC on this project. Canadiana .org , as a not - for profit organization created and supported by the library community, is a solid partner in this initiative . CRKN [a research library consortium] has con siderable experience in successfully negotiating complex agreements in the interest of their users. CLA congratulates the academic community in developing a partnership model which will provide access to material of national significance, and of great val ue to a variety of user communities."
We are reassured that Canadians will not be denied access to this content, and that it is not going to be restricted by a 'paywall', as reported in the media. Digitized images will be available for free on the Canadiana.org website, making them more accessible than they are in their current format. Those who provide financial support to this project will have the added value of access to the metadata being created to support the images; and even that metadata will gradually be made publicly available so that, after 10 years, all elements of this project will be freely accessible to all.
CARL also wrote to Moore in support of the project:
"(...) while LAC does some digitization in - house, it will absolutely need to rely on partnerships with the library community to make substantial progress. You will be aware, Minister, that LAC, together with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) and CARL, formed such a partnership organization in 2008 to do just that. This organization, Canadiana.org, was formed from an earlier Canadiana (set up in 1978 by Canadian research libraries with some initial SSHRC funding) that microfilmed and eventually digitized several important Canadian historical collections and from Alouette Canada, which was a later initiative of Canadian research libraries to provide a portal to digital collections being developed at member libraries. For many years, LAC has supported the work of Canadiana by giving it direct access to its collections for its microfilming and digitization work. LAC has provided funding as a Canadiana.org member and has provided board members, as have BAnQ, CARL and many of a long list of university and public library members and researchers. In short, LAC has formed a very appropriate and effective partnership with the wider Canadian library community precisely to accomplish the digitization of our historical documents — exactly what Canadian Heritage would and should expect it to do."

"The Héritage Project, which has come to the recent attention of the media, is our best chance in Canada to achieve the availability online to Canadians of tens of millions of pages of historical documents. This arrangement between LAC and Canadiana.org will see materials that are currently only available in analogue format in Ottawa become fully available al so digitally to Canadians everywhere (and to the rest of the world) as soon as they are digitized with no cost at all to the end - user (...)"

"Beyond this, however, the research value of this scanned collection can be hugely increased with the addition of text indexing, whereby the current text — most of it in handwriting — is transcribed such that it can be searched by a computer, and with the addition of detailed metadata that will fully describe each document in the collection, information that simply does not yet exist as such . It will take a long time and a considerable amount of money to develop this indexing and metadata, and this is where the community that wants to contribute to this cause can do so in exchange for the resulting enhanced - quality access to the content. Moreover, each year over the decade of the arrangement, an additional 10% of the fully - described collection will be released to Canadians and the world at large at no charge under a Creative Commons license, so that at the end of the project, 100% of the fully - described content will openly available to all forever. We again emphasize, Minister, that 100% of the content (without detailed description) will already be 'open access' online immediately as soon as it is scanned."
Canadiana.org itself has explained that the project will involve no "paywall".

An article in yesterday's Ottawa Citizen explains some of the challenges LAC faces when it comes to digitizing and preserving its massive collections.

Earlier Library Boy posts about Canadiana.org include:


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:22 pm

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