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26 January 2007

Encyclopedic Archives, Books and Image Libraries : Combinations Bigger than Google

Today Blogaulaire discovered two compendia tools being compiled and hosted at the University of Sherbrooke, here in Québec. The Bilan du Siècle and the Perspective Monde are searchable archives that are like textual and visual electronic encyclopedias. If I were a reference librarian working in Québec, I would have links to both on my desktop always at the ready.

Links to both sites are on the homepage of the Faculté des lettres et sciences.

Canada immigrants

A list of the images in the archives for Bilan du Siècle is HERE. You don't need your high school French to read images.

When you browse to Perspective Monde, notice the button at the top of the page for ENGLISH and you will access the micropedia sections that have been translated.

This brings me to the issue of digital libraries.

In the proper hands, it is fantastic to have documents available in a library and on the Internet for viewing on a monitor. However, the real work and brain muscle goes into putting the documents into a search tree with worthwhile structure and commentary. Then it is important to provide labels and short, topical article entries, illustrations and tables, if what is made searchable is intended for anyone other than an advanced scholar in his or her specialised field of research.

The Sherbrooke archive source: HERE

The team at the University of Sherbrooke should be praised for what they have digitized, annotated and made searchable on line. The articles and timelines, just to mention two features I stumbled upon, are well done. (I hope some of you readers will look into this. I also hope that the work has been translated into English.)

I do not think anybody working for Google is competent to accomplish the same thing. Blogaulaire is not saying that Google ever claimed that they are competent at such scholarly, educational enterprises. But many, many people are creating buzz and momentum such that Google becomes the 800-pound gorilla that crushes all the competent cage mates (the real librarians and scholarly writers) up against the bars and out of the metaphoric zoo!

There is a huge, looming problem here. There is a threat on the horizon if anybody in their right mind EVER places confidence in Google or another private corporation and pays them to take on the sort of archival and electronic publishing projects that are currently the mandate of institutionally recognised teams, such as this one, that Blogaulaire just discovered.

Why bring Google into this?

This is all about the 'Google scans the world' issue as blogger J Godsey so tersely puts it on her blog Bibliophile Bullpen.

On another blog we are about to cite below, the matter is headlined in the post title and quote we are also about to cite. Links and credits also follow.

The Digital Battle For Our Literary Heritage: The Internet Archive vs. Google

From: Book Patrol

By Michael Lieberman - Antiquarian Bookseller
From his blog on the website of the Seattle newspaper The Post Intelligencer .

Michael Lieberman also has a personal blog by the same title where you find fewer enhancements like images and less emphasis on running human interest feature articles.

If Google wants to digitize the collections of private institutions by all means go ahead but to venture into the realm of digitizing the content of public institutions (remember University libraries are public institutions) is a slippery slope that unfortunately we have started to slide down.

We need to do all we can to stop this digital freight train. The message is simple. For profit companies cannot digitize the content of public institutions or public libraries.

Let the Internet Archive take care of digitizing the treasures of our public institutions and libraries. We can set aside a portion of the budget for the Library of Congress (a current supporter) and the Smithsonian Institution if need be or how about a 1% digital archive tax on every new computer purchased.

The point is we need to get creative here. Fast.

We need to buy back the rights that were sold to Google (at a premium of course) and go about doing this the right way.


Lieberman's post is worth blogging in extenso. And thank you, Michael Lieberman, for crediting CPE for finding one of the source articles you link in your post.

Lately two of my posts here have been 'ripped' by both electronic and print media without so much as giving Cheap Priceless Editions eve a credit line! Thanks for the one you ran on Book Patrol, sincerely.


jgodsey said...

if i 'rip' a blog i have always noted it.

Blogaulaire said...

jg, That's not a rip then, is it. No, I'm referring to a commercial news source and their print edition.

I found it by tracking back out of curiousity one blog search.

BTW, if you do check back after commenting, I sent a friend to your site to check out the book deodorizer. I knoe my friend well for having worked with him in a bookstore hereabouts. He is a 'hard sell', so your website and your blog must be doing a great job at promoting the product.

You'll be able to identify your new customer I presume by his provenance from La Belle Province of Québec.

The 'smelly book problem', I believe, comes from the book having been in the hold of a leaky ship - seriously. No dampness damage, but that briny odor. But hell, I know guys who smell like that naturally :) But they don't know how to read, so it's not going to bring YOU any business . . or is it?