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[dpla] First session

Moderated by John Palfrey.

Deanna Marcum of the Library of Congress says the LC has 148M objects and has digitized 28M of them. [I may have gotten that last number wrong. Sorry.] The LC wants to make these resources as available as possible. “That is what brings us to the table of the DPLA. It seems to be the type of organization that will help us fulfill our mission in a very important way.” [Tying the DPLA to the LC’s mission is a big deal.]

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Deanna says that from the beginning, the Librarian of Congress, James Billington, has asked how the LC can serve libraries better. The answer consistently has been: We want your content where we are, not where you are. This was pre-Net, so they looked to CD ROMs, digitizing collections starting in the early 1990s, beginning with materials useful to K-12. They checked in with the 44 pilots and were amazed to find it was useful all the way down to third grade students were making “incredibly innovative” uses of this digital content. In 1995, Congress said that it’d match private funds 1:3 (Congress pays $1 for each 3 raised) for digitization efforts. The LC began to think about what in its collections should be digitized first. Sloan funded digitizing of public domain works. Those efforts continue.

Susan Hildreth is director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal grant-making agency. She wonders what resources already exist that the DPLa can use, and which resources need to be created. This is vital the IMLS’ contribution to the effort. The IMLS already has invested heavily in digitization projects. Also: metadata collection and cleanup programs. Also: training librarians. Also: conversations on these topics. So, there are already digitized items, best practices and policies, etc. for digital collections. Also, IMLS has reports of 20 years of international discussions about what digital libraries can be. And, some lessons learned: 1. Collaboration is key to long success in digitization. 2. The traditional relation between info providers and consumers is changing. 3. Digital libraries can reduce administrative costs, although we’re just at the beginning of this.

Also, Susan says we should learn some lessons from the IMLS: Support interoperability and the preservation of digital resources. Make it sustainable. Find new ways to measure the impact. Ultimately how will this make a difference to the person going on the Web to find information? The IMLS can be strategic in the DPLA’s efforts. [We like the “strategic” commitment.]

John Palfrey reinforces her statement about the excitement this is generating among librarian students.

David Ferriero, the Archivist [coolest title ever], talks. He comes to this position after heading the NY Public Library. He explains that the National Archives is the nation’s record keeper. For all federal agencies, and “courtesy preservation” for Congress. It began only in 1935. The records go back to the Continental Congress, and include White House tweets. 12B pages of textual records. Billions of electronic records, which is the fastest growing area. 8M emails from Reagan, 200+|M from the GW Bush era. And, as Bush tells David, “Not one of those is mine.” He wants every item in the Archives to be online. He remembers discussions with librarians in which they worried about how to get students to use paper. “Get over it.”

The massive amount of material they have has made the Archives “rather creative” in getting out. E.g., the Citizen Archivist program to give opportunities to the people to help digitize and process records. Docs Teach is online, loaded with lesson plans, etc.

When he was at NYPL, they worked with Google to digitize 1M works, and David saw how it has transforms scholarship. In Dec. 2009, Pres. Obama signed a declassification order requiring the Archives to review and declassify. They’ve gone through 1M pages and have release 91% to the public shelves. The CIA “finally caved on the oldest secret documents” — German docs on creating secret ink. This happened because the Archivist staff used Google Books to discover that the ink formulas had been published in 1931.

Q: Accessibility and findability? Not enough to simply put things online.
A: Deanna: It’s important. But you’re looking at three people who don’t know how to do this.
A: David: Josh Greenberg taught me that we should talk about where the people are and get our stuff out there. That’s why we use Youtube and Flickr. It’s a problem for the Archives because our records are so large and complex. Plus, kids today can’t read cursive. So we’re going to be creating ways for the public to help us transcribe cursive docs.
A: Susan: It’s a broad issue, including making our materials available to those with disabilities, in multiple languages, etc. IMLS is interested in supporting platforms for effective discovery.
A: David: Serendipity is important.

Q: Director of the Smithsonian Institutional Libraries: We also are very interested in participating in the DPLA with our 137M objects (although 124M are natural history specimens, so how many mosquitoes do we want in the DPLA?). But we have 6.4M digitized objects and are in a unique position to pull in museum, library and archive objects. We’re eager to continue to cooperate.

Q: Are there mechanisms in place to avoid reverse engineering of CIA documents.
A: The Archivist does not have the authority to release. We just facilite the process.
Q: Are you going to do more?
A: We’ve done a million. There are 400M to go. We have a deadline in 2013. I hosted a meeting about the priorities and the room was evenly split between releasing the JFK assassination docs and UFOs.

Q: [British Library] One of the real challenges is the difference between a digital library and a wonderful but confusing random set of resources. Public-private partnerships are essential. And we have just opened up all our metadata on a CCEuro license. No one can know what this will be used for, and that is its value. Also, there’s a challenge finding and developing modern librarians/curators.

Q: John Mayer: Imagine it’s 2016 and all your collections have been digitized. How does society improve once that’s in place. What’s the sf scenario of the DPLA?
A: Deanna: If we assume benefit from having access to info resources — better decisions, better understanding where they come from and where they’re going, unerstand world cultures better — we want to make these resources available any way they want. That’s what librarians have always dreamed about and we finally have a mechanism for doing that. American citizens have paid for these resources with their tax dollars.
A: David: Better informed citizenry. Hold our government accountable. Understand our future by learning from our history.
A: Susan: If all is digitized, what happens to our physical facilities. By providing all that info, it will create a greater need and desire for people to work together, in the virtual and real worlds. It’s a very exciting and liberating future. And if we have all that data, we have to have strong connectivity to our homes, schools, libraries…

Q: Bob Darnton: Many of the questions have been testimonials. Wonderful! We rejected the name “National Digital Library” because there’s nothing national about it. Getting bigger means getting more international, and that is certainly going to happen. The national library director of France has expressed support. So has Europeana. This support is a movement that goes back to the international Republic of Letters. We’re getting the feeling we can make real a dream at the founding of this country.

[It is so ineffable cool and inspiriting to have these great institutions sharing a stage and a vision.]

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