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ARSCLIST  December 2006

ARSCLIST December 2006

Subject:

Re: Digitizing libraries (more complete...)

From:

"Steven C. Barr(x)" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

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

Date:

Wed, 13 Dec 2006 23:18:19 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Karl Miller" <[log in to unmask]>
> 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.
>
The point is, though, that even 20TB is "doable" in a practical sense...
that would be an array of 40 500GB drives...!

>   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.
>
Agreed...but how much of that video exists in digital form? And how
much of THAT is taken from lower-definition film, older video and
similar sources for which that "bells & whistles" format is pretty
well wasted?

>   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.
>
One thought here. If a document is digitized by one holder thereof, why
would that have to be done for each such...?!

>   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.
>
In another decade or less, that director will be (forcibly) retired...since
that statement will rank along with "there is no value in being able to
write and read..."

Also, the wisdom of using help that understands little or nothing of
what they are working with is well demonstrated by the Rigler-Deutsch
project...?!

>   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?
>
In a practical sense, it could very well be funded by some of the
financially-better-off denominations (given proper presentations...)

>   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!
>
This, in turn, asks another question..."What is the basic function of
<a/this> library?" In actual fact, an answer can only be given for,
at the very least, a given kind of library...our Oshawa Public Library
has a very different function than either the Durham College Library
up the road a couple of miles, or my own "discographic library."

However, all libraries share one basic function...to provide whatever
information is desired (or is most likely to be desired) by its users.
For our public library, this means, basically, popular fiction...the
local and area newspapers (and archives thereof insofar as reasonably
possible)...popular periodicals...standard reference works...and
fairly up-to-date copies of non-fiction works. Most of the archived
publications are in the form of microfilm/fiche (I can remember when
libraries had bound volumes of magazines going way back...). All of
this material could be provided in digital form (in many cases it
already is, via the Internet!) just as easily.

Digitizations of reference works, where available, are much easier
and quicker to use than hard-copy versions. This is also true (if
a search capability is provided) for many non-fiction works. Virtually
all newspapers can be accessed via the Internet (I don't know to
what extent that applies to magazines?). For various special-use
likbraries (i.e. school libraries at any level)...there would be
one major advantage...if a book was assigned reading in a class,
eveyone would be able to access it, not just the handful of
students who got there first!

Finally, in this "brave new world" I'm idly dreaming of...libraries
would be able to provide access to even the most obscure volumes!
The local public library has, IIRC, about three of the standard
discographic reference books...and I may well be the only person
who ever accesses any of them. If these were all made available
on some sort of "Master Inter-Library Network,"...

Steven C. Barr
>   And, if you want a book, you go to Barnes and Noble or amazon.com or
abebooks.com or...
>
>   Karl
>

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