Opportunity Knocks: Library of Congress Invites No-cost Digitization Proposals

This is a guest post from Vidya Vish, The Library of Congress Contracting Officer for the Third Party Digitization RFP.

Thomas Edison, full-length portrait, seated, facing front, with phonograph, Library of Congress

Thomas Edison, full-length portrait, seated, facing front, with phonograph, Library of Congress

The Library’s collections include tens of millions of items  – not just books, but also manuscripts, monographs, serials, newspapers, pamphlets, sound recordings, films, videos, sheet music, photographs, posters, microfilm and maps. Our collections are at the heart of the Library’s mission to further the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.

A critical strategy is to make our collections available, not just on-site here at the Library, but through digital copies on the Library’s website. The Library has just released a request for proposals for third party digitization – essentially seeking collaborators interested in digitizing Library collection materials at no cost to the Library. The Library invites proposals from commercial and non-commercial entities in the digital content community, such as e-book publishers or distributors, educational institutions, libraries, archives and others involved in the development of digital collections and dissemination of digital materials.

This formalizes a practice that goes back to microfilm days, where various companies reproduced our collections for their own distribution, and provided microfilm or digital copies back to the Library. Bringing in collaborators allows us to stretch our digitization resources further, making more collections publicly available faster. An open solicitation assures greater transparency and a consistent process that will be fair to all interested third parties.

Read all about it here.

And please, pass the word to anyone you know who might be interested!

7 Comments

  1. Sharad Shah
    April 8, 2013 at 11:49 am

    One of the primary reasons Google’s effort to digitize newspapers fell apart concerns copyright ownership. Looking at the labors involved, I think it was a noble effort–it was just a matter of the complicated process of navigating the murky waters of ownership, authorship, and orphaned works.

    Assuming that copyright, ownership, or restrictions to the materials involved in this mass digitization project are not a concern, has the LOC considered taking this up with Google. It would be a fantastic partnership because they have the tools (software), the capital (i.e. free to the LOC), the initiative (i.e. “Don’t be evil.”) and it furthers the LOC’s overall mission of furthering “the progress of knowledge and creativity for the benefit of the American people.”

  2. Sharad Shah
    April 8, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    *and Google Books

  3. Hiram Miggs
    April 8, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Does the LOC plan to respect copyright? Or to violate copyright and steal from the rights-holders? The idea of teaming up with the notorious pirate Google is odious; it would give Google an undeserved veneer of respectability, encourage Google to work on more piracy-based projects, and leave the door open to endless illegality from Google. Give Google an inch; they’ll take a mile.

  4. Mike Mumford Researcher & Publisher
    April 9, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I welcome your Library inviting proposals from commercial and non-commercial entities in the digital content community, such as e-book publishers or distributors, educational institutions, libraries, archives and others involved in the development of digital collections and dissemination of digital materials. Every encouragement must be made to digitise all your collections to the World, I say this because we must fight ignorance with constructive knowledge. The gatekeepers of every museum archive has a duty of care to its collection, “to and from” its hidden vaults. By leaving on the “Lights” the researcher and knowledge seeker, followed by the author and publisher will turn a single light into an internet beam, travelling at the speed of light. Quoting one leading web site that already is successfully doing this today.
    By making all museums and archives interconnected, then knowledge is open to all, and not to the privileged few.

  5. James Jacobs
    April 9, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    Whenever I see an agency using the term “no cost” I wonder about the costs and to whom those costs will effect. Case in point, the Govt Accountability Office (GAO) had a no cost digitization contract with Thomson West in 2008. Thomson digitized 20,597 public domain legislative histories of most public laws from 1915-1995, GAO received an acct to the Thomson database and Thomson received exclusive rights to sell access. The public received nothing. There are other examples of this happening as well (http://freegovinfo.info/node/1798).

    I hope that LC managers read those “no cost” bids extremely carefully and not cede control of and access to public domain materials.

  6. Rudy Umans
    April 17, 2013 at 9:24 am

    you want to make the whole collection available online. Hmm… What measurements did you or will you take to prevent theft? Theft of copyrighted works on line is a big concern. I provided you with a 19 page report about that in relation to your small claim suggestions request.

  7. Vidya Vish
    April 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    The RFP specifically requires compliance with copyright law, and will involve an assessment of the best deal not only for the government, but for the public. Any embargo period before the digitized materials can be made freely available is strictly limited. Decisions will be guided by the Library’s overall digitization principles.
    [http://www.loc.gov/about/business/thirdpartydig/principles.html]

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