Digitization is important for the long-term preservation of our documentary heritage. It also affords greater accessibility to these invaluable materials. Certainly, digital access to our national heritage has a positive impact on research and education, and furthers our cultural production, national pride and unity. The benefits of digitization include:
- Ease of use, widespread distribution of, and access to materials that in analogue formats may be rare and distant, or fragile and at risk of loss
- Improved access to documents when the digital files are made available and findable online
- Searchable text in documents when text indexing is created during the digitization process
- Increased accessibility for the print disabled if the digital files are in a format compatible with text-to-voice reading tools
- Improved preservation of analogue documents (i.e., less handling) since, for most, the digital version will be sufficient
When digitizing content, research libraries and partnering organizations face a number of critical questions, such as determining the cost, scope, audience and copyright. In particular, research libraries must determine whether the content to be digitized needs to have its copyright cleared, whether with a known and locatable rights holder or, in the case of an orphan work, through a licensing process. Many historical documents, because of their age, may be in the public domain and not subject to copyright. Please consult our Copyright page for more info on that issue.
Initiatives and Resources
As digital content is growing rapidly, research libraries need to consider how they will launch, manage, and preserve digital initiatives.
- CARL is currently overseeing the development of the Student Voice, an online portal of post-secondary student media, including newspapers, radio archives and other content from the holdings of CARL member institution. This project is funded by the Government of Canada and through in-kind contributions.
- CARL has encouraged digitization of Canada’s documentary heritage in its responses to federal government consultations, such as the Digital Economy Strategy for Canada (2010) and the Canadian Digital Information Strategy (2007).
- Several CARL libraries have also been working with the Internet Archive to digitize and make available online parts of their collections.
- CARL and its members have also partnered with Canadiana.org, which has digitized or coordinated the digitization of materials, and developed web portals that are available to all.
Major Canadian and International Digitization Projects
- Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec – Digital Collections covers the entire published and archival documentary heritage produced in Québec since the 17th century, or of foreign origin and related to Québec.
- University of Toronto Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library – Digital Collections offers page images, enhanced indexing features, and the capability to conduct full text searching for various local digital collections.
- VMC Virtual Exhibitsis an interactive space that brings together Canadian museum collections.
- OAIster is a search engine for academic digital collections on the web hosted by WorldCat.
- Project Gutenberg is the largest collection of copyright-free books online.
- World Digital Library makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from all countries and cultures.
- Google Books is a controversial mass digitization project. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) provides a helpful overview of the most recent settlement document concerning Google’s scanning of copyrighted works.
- Canada’s Digital Collections archived at Library and Archives Canada (archived webpage) was operated by Industry Canada between 1996 and 2004 to provide young Canadians with skills and experience in preparing digital Canadian content of local, regional and international interest.