December 8, 2006

Call For Interest: Making Openly Available Selected Pre-1975 U.S. Government Agency Technical Reports

.: From an e-mail circulating on SLA-ENG:

In mid-November, the GWLA/CRL Federal Technical Reports Digitization Project Task Force issued a call for interest. The text of that announcement is copied below. For those of you who have already responded, we very much appreciate your interest. For others of you who have been intending to respond soon or who are concerned they may miss the originally requested deadline, we want to make sure that you are given every opportunity to respond. Please send your response to the call for interest to Alice Trussell at by Friday, December 15, 2006. This is a week longer than the originally requested date. It will be very helpful to us to have this information prior to any holiday breaks and absences that will be occurring at many of our institutions and agencies.

Below is the original call for interest:

The Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA - and the Center for Research Libraries (CRL - are collaborating on a pilot project to ascertain both the practicality of and impediments to digitizing and making openly available selected pre-1975 U.S. government agency technical reports. We have chosen those parameters to avoid duplication of digitization efforts that have been undertaken by federal agencies. We are contacting and endeavoring to work closely and cooperatively with the agencies whose publications are being considered for digitization.

There is a vast amount of potentially valuable information contained in hundreds of report series that is quite difficult to access due to limited distribution, format issues, and the cataloging practices (or lack thereof) associated with these types of materials at many institutions at the time these materials were published. Many libraries have no record of what was published in many tech report series or what series/reports are available at different institutions. Some institutions have, or are considering, withdrawing large portions of their paper technical reports collections, in part because they use up valuable shelf space and in part because they tend to get low use. But part of the reason for that low use is the lack of cataloging and/or other access options to that material. The results of this project would help remedy both of those issues for institutions worldwide.

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September 28, 2006

George Porter and Caltech Libraries: Growth of the CODA Repositories

.: George Porter, Technical Reference Librarian at Caltech's Sherman Fairchild Library and sometimes-contributor to this blog, is featured in a recent article in News and Updates from Caltech Library Services. Specifically, his work on the Caltech Collection of Online Digital Archives (CODA). Excerpt:

The Caltech Collection of Online Digital Archives (CODA) has been receiving a lot of publicity in the Open Access Authoring @ Caltech blog site ( This is partly due to the increase of faculty and student awareness and interest in the on-line availability of research material.

When asked to give a brief description of CODA, George Porter, a Technical Reference Librarian in the Sherman Fairchild Library for the last 9 years, first responded that CODA is a number of things. It is primarily a digital collection of all Caltech authored technical reports, books, conference papers, and oral histories from the Caltech archives, as well as a repository for Caltech dissertations and electronic theses (ETD’s). The repository was launched in 2000, and as of 9/5/06 we have 2,884 dissertations on file. It has been mandatory, since 2003, for all graduate students to submit their theses electronically.

June 7, 2006

The Fragility and Shelf Life of Digital Data

.: Bob Michaelson posted a link to an interesting article on the looming crisis involving the storage and preservation of digital data. The article is titled Fragile digital data in danger of fading past history's reach. The key problem of course, is that digital storage media keep changing. A book is a book is a book. The paper may deteriorate over time, but the format hasn't changed for millenia. Except:

The problem is that, compared to the sturdy format of paper and books, digital information is extremely fragile, disappearing as software becomes obsolete, hardware breaks down and viruses wipe out volumes.

"Digital media can be very ephemeral. They can decay," says Anne Okerson, of the Council on Library and Information Resources. "For example, will a Word or Word Perfect document still be readable in 10 years, several versions later? Mine aren't ... how about a CD? Doubtful."

Even if the media on which information is saved endure for years, what happens when the technology to extract and read it becomes obsolete?

Jon Prial, IBM's vice president of content management, asks, "If something is saved digitally now, the question becomes, can I save a CD somewhere for 1,000 years? If I can, will there be something to play it on?"

Obsolete formats are also mentioned. At home, I have two reel-to-reel audio tapes, and nothing on which to play them. How many of us still have 5.25" floppies? Camera companies are ceasing or have already stopped making cameras which use film. Audio and video cassettes are the latest technologies to be mothballed by the manufacturers.

It's a serious concern that shows no immediate signs of resolution.

November 22, 2005

Library of Congress to Build World Digital Library

.: From a post on Maphist, via CNN:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The Library of Congress is kicking off a campaign on Tuesday to work with other nation's libraries to build a World Digital Library, starting with a $3 million donation from Google Inc.

Librarian of Congress James Billington said he is looking to attract further private funding to develop bilingual projects, featuring millions of unique objects, with libraries in China, India, the Muslim world and other nations. This builds on major existing digital documentary projects by the Library of Congress -- one preserving an online record of Americana and another documenting ties between the United States and Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain. "The World Digital Library is an attempt to go beyond Europe and the Americas...into cultures where the majority of the world is," Billington told Reuters in a telephone interview.

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March 7, 2005

More on Gormangate

:: As my friend Tony Dalmyn noted, I didn't include a link to Michael Gorman's original column in the LA Times, Google and God's Mind, in the previous post about his Library Journal column about blogs, so there it is. I mention this because I want to draw your attention to a new blog, Qudam cuiusdam by esteemed colleague Peter Binkley, Digital Initiatives Project Librarian at the University of Alberta, in which he offers an insightful, informed and educated response to Gorman's take on the Google project. Peter works on Peel's Prairie Provinces, a major digitization project to enhance and improve access to the history of the Canadian prairie provinces:

Peel's Prairie Provinces is a resource dedicated to assisting scholars, students, and researchers of all types in their exploration of the history and culture of the Canadian Prairies. The site contains both an online bibliography of books, pamphlets, and other materials related to the development of the Prairies and a fully searchable collection of the full texts of many of these items. As of September 2004, the Peel bibliographic database holds some 7,200 titles, approximately 2,500 of which have already been rendered in digital form and mounted on the Web site. These materials are extremely varied in terms of their content and provide an extraordinarily diverse picture of the Prairie experience. These items date back to the earliest days of exploration in the region and include a vast range of material dealing with every aspect of the settlement and development of the Canadian West. These sources are also highly diverse in regard to the cultural experiences that they reflect. Although English-language titles predominate, the databases contain a very substantial body of materials in French, Ukrainian, and numerous other languages.

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February 24, 2005

National Digital Science Library - Invitation to Help Build

From a post by John M Saylor on STS-L:

Colleagues- The National Science Digital Library(NSDL) Program was launched by the National Science Foundation in 2000 to establish an online library of resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education and research. Access to aggregated collections and services began in December 2002 with the opening of the web site (

As part of a phased approach to extend the width and depth of the STEM resources in the NSDL we are now looking for volunteers in the subject areas listed below to recommend resources for inclusion in the NSDL collection. We have developed an automated system called the NSDL Resource Recommendation System (RRS) that is a simple process by which an authorized selector to identifies a resource with a URL, initiates an automated metadata generation process, has the opportunity to edit and augment the metadata if necessary, and then submits it for inclusion in the NSDL.

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April 19, 2004

Digital Preservation and Permanent Access to Scientific Information: The State of the Practice

:: This report comes from The International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) and CENDI, The US Federal Information Managers Group, from 11 federal agencies. A 92-page pdf version is also available.

In 1999, the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI) and CENDI jointly sponsored a report on Digital Electronic Archiving: The State of the Art and Practice (Carroll & Hodge, 1999). ICSTI and CENDI remain interested in digital preservation as they represent large repositories, publishers, and libraries of scientific and technical information. This report is an update to that 1999 report.

This report focuses on operational digital preservation systems specifically in science and technology (S&T). It considers the wide range of digital objects of interest to S&T, including e-journals, technical reports, e-records, project documents, scientific data, etc. The report also discusses archiving based on format types -- text, data, audio, video, etc. It is, of course, international in scope, and as much as possible crosses organizational sectors (academic, government, commercial, etc.).

However, this report does not attempt to provide a comprehensive survey of systems, but rather to highlight selected systems/projects that can help to identify trends, remaining issues and activities that ICSTI, CENDI and other organizations interested in the preservation and permanent access to the record of science can consider when developing their own systems and policies. More than 50 projects and systems were identified from the surveys, from experts, or from the literature. From these, 21 were selected for highlighting in this report. However, references are made to other projects throughout the report as appropriate.