November 28, 2005
What do i find staring at me from my mailbox when i arrive home today. "The Chronicle Review" (The B section to the Chronicle of Higher Education) front page article entitled "The Google Gamble" by Siva Vaidhyanathan. It is the December 2nd Issue. You'll be able to access it through LexisNexis in a couple of days.
The article pretty much says that we are gambling that Google will keep the information free and egalitarian.
Posted by nmartina at November 28, 2005 10:11 PM
I don't quite understand the wringing of hands over this and the question of whether or not they will share this data. It doesn't currently exist so no one is sharing it now. Is there some exclusivity agreement whereby the participating libraries agree not to let anyone else ever do this? I could see a problem if that is the case but if not then even if they decided not to share the data how are we worse off? I took some comfort in the fact that they will give a copy to the libraries involved. At the moment I'm cheering for Google.
Posted by: Kurt at November 29, 2005 02:53 PM
That's a good point Kurt. I think the hand wringing comes from the fact that all of us can imagine a world where libraries begin to dump their collections in favor of digital collections. Don't say it will never happen--as the speakers suggested last night--because it already is. Libraries are dumping their journal collections now that JSTOR has them available online. Oh sure, libraries like GMU that belong to a consortium are making sure that the consortium maintains at least one physical copy of the journal--but for how long? I can forsee the pressure to get rid of that dang storage facility and it's overhead. After all, we've got all those journals online don't we? Oops! JSTOR just tripled their rates! Now what do we do? Anyone see an eBay listing for the back issues of the AHR?
The issue I raised about Microsoft and the Bettmann Archive gets to the nub of this, I think. The several million images in the Bettmann Archive are stored in a facility in Pennsylvania and are available to researchers there. If you want to see the images in their original form, as opposed to the (often) cleaned up version available via Corbis.com, you have to go there to get access, as you would have before Microsoft bought the Archive and moved it to PA. But how long will Microsoft maintain that very expensive storage facility now that they have digitized the entire Archive? For now, they maintain it as a humanitarian gesture...there is no profit to be gained from keeping those original images. In fact, quite the reverse is true--as long as the originals exist, the digital versions have a possibly reduced value, because I can go there, scan any image I want that is not rights managed and put it online for free.
Sure, sure, there are hundreds of copies of scholarly works on library shelves around the country--but for how much longer? Imagine how many more students the University of Michigan could teach each semester if three or four floors of the Library, now used as stacks, could be converted to classrooms once all those pesky books were off-loaded.
Posted by: Mills at November 29, 2005 03:47 PM
I see your point with Microsoft but that is slightly different in that (if I read this correctly) they have a monopoly on the both the originals and the digital versions. I would hope, and will lobby for, librarian types to fight to keep originals rather than de-accessioning them. Otherwise this does become a potentially scary scenario.
On top of this I also get a little nervous with the whole issue of migrating from one data storage type to another. I recently discovered a cardboard box in my basement full of 5 ľ floppies I can no longer access. So, a portion of the Kurt Knoerl archival collection has already bit the dust (though I can't bring myself to throw them away even if they are older than my children). I would hope larger organizations will plan better than I did but I wonder about small poorly funded collections. Sorry Iím getting a little off topic but one issue seems to spin off into others.
Posted by: Kurt at November 29, 2005 04:30 PM
I think you are not so far off topic. This issue of preservation and migration are very real and very scary. There is a reason that although they are cumbersome and the quality is not so good, that microform is still used. Because the technology to read it lives pretty much forever (and the film is pretty sturdy too). Even if microform readers go away, with a flashlight and a magnifying glass you can always retrieve the material. Not so with the ever changing machines we are using now. So I'm with you. I know archivist and librarians are thinking about these things. Hopefully, if only out of economic viability, Google is thinking about this also.
Posted by: nona at November 29, 2005 10:15 PM
George Oberle, the history department's library liason, and I discussed the Monday night talks and, after reading your blog discussion, we need to incorporate George into the discussion. Obviously, university librarians are having some interesting discussions about digital collections, retaining archives, etc.
George and I have spent the last year trying to locate (and access) a specific journal that is only available at one library at Harvard. It does not lend from this collection and non-Harvard students cannot use that particular libarary. Plus, I am not even sure that this is the right journal. This problem has definitely pushed my vote for Google et al to develop digital collections as this journal would be shared. However, I am equally apprehensive about the loss of the original particularly when there is no information about the original. It is one thing when we research data that we are familiar with; in this case, I am concerned that we may lose important information about the original format of scholarship and I think that this is equally important.So, I vote for digitizing everything for open access and also keeping the originals because I need the reassurance of the original for context.
Posted by: Maureen at November 30, 2005 08:39 AM
Roy's article in the AHR (Scarcity or Abundance) deals with the issue of storage media in great detail. He makes the point the Kurt does about the impermanence of the current storage media--CD-roms can be expected to live about 15-20 years at most, for instance. And, even if they were more permanent, how many computers will still have CD drives in 10 years? Not many, I suspect.
Posted by: Mills at November 30, 2005 10:13 AM