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ARSCLIST  December 2006

ARSCLIST December 2006

Subject:

Re: Digitizing libraries

From:

Karl Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 13 Dec 2006 06:56:34 -0800

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"Steven C. Barr(x)" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:    >If this implies what I suspect it may...it gets me thinking about
>a further possibility! Since sound files for the most part start out
>in digital form...and image files (as well as possibly text files,
>such as books...!) can be converted to digital files by >scanning...how long will it be before libraries are converted to >institutions with huge multi-disc servers...Will future libraries be >measured in terabytes (or whatever follows those...?!)...

There was a time when the content of all of the text in the Library of Congress was used as a point of reference to give some conceptualization of a terabyte...as I recall reading some years ago...in an attempt to give some notion of the size of a terabyte it was stated that if the entire text of all of the material in the Library of Congress was converted to ASCII it woulc require about 4 or 5 terabytes of storage. Most recently wikipedia suggests it is about 20 terabytes.
   
  Also from wikipedia...one hour of uncompressed "ultra" high def video takes approximately 11.5 terabytes. While it might not be time for us to think in terms of zettabytes or yottabytes, we might need to think in terms of petabytes.
   
  As to the role of libraries in all of this. Many libraries outsource their digital storage. It makes sense in that they don't have the infrastructure to deal with it...level of salaries, expertise, hardware, etc. Computer providers have all of the above, so, they will be (and already are) our libraries. 
   
  Two nights ago I attended a lecture...there is a project to digitize the approximately 4,500 volumes of the library of the Monastery of St. Catherine at the base of Mount Sinai. They still have lots of money to raise, but they estimate it will take 5 workstations about 5 years to do the job. Ok, we aren't talking regular books, we are talking fragile material...perhaps not unlike dealing with a glass based lacquer with some cracking...well, I would guess the lacquer would be more problematic. So, it will take time...my guess is that it will take them much longer than they estimate.
   
  In short, who is going to do all of this work? Who is going to train the people? The presentor said they plan to use some of the local bedouins to do the job...I am reminded of those who would use work study students to do audio transfers...I am reminded of our library director who places no value on the skill sets required to do audio reformatting. 
   
  The folks working on the St. Catherine's project are having to design their own scanning workstations...with an estimated cost of about $150,000 a workstation...then the cost of salaries of those doing the work...insurance, meetings, training, etc. Who has such a large checkbook for something that might be of interest to Biblical scholars around the world...how many biblical scholars are there? What will be the final cost, per scholar, of scanning those 4,500 books? 
   
  My guess is that they will never finish the project. The presentor also spoke enthusiastically about scanning two other major libraries. Of course there is much to be said of the planned imaging technology which will be applied to the these pages...the reading of texts which had been written below the most readable texts, those older texts having been washed off in order to reuse the parchment being a major consideration.
   
  I referred him to Jonas Palm's "Digital Black Hole."
   
  While I am just thinking out loud...I wonder, by the time such projects are done, what will be the state of the files of the first pages scanned...will that data be error free...will we have changed file formats...will our indexing modalities be the same...will our imaging technology have evolved to provide us with even greater clarity? Of course these are concerns which those of us in audio preservation have considered from the first time we were able to reformat.
   
  For me, there are some fascinating questions. When is a library not a library? My answer is, when the information is digitized. When it is digitized it becomes magnetic storage in a computing facility. Hence, libraries are now becoming coffee bars, cafes, lounges, movie theaters, etc. Ah, now it all makes sense to me!
   
  And, if you want a book, you go to Barnes and Noble or amazon.com or abebooks.com or...
   
  Karl

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