Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Google settles for - everything

Of course, digitizing everything was the goal. And considering what Google has in the bank, $125M is cheap to settle. The bad news is that it's a settlement, and doesn't make any difference in the law, but it does set a non-legal precedent.

Of course, I'm curious if OCLC's fledgling copyright information registry is partnering with Google; it would make sense not to duplicate effort, and crowdsourcing has made sense in other fields. It certainly hasn't hurt LC, with its Flickr experiment.

I'm not as concerned about Google replacing libraries. It's not like Google is taking the books away from libraries, stopping ILL, or burning them. It certainly has a lower barrier to entry than the aggregators, when an individual can pay for full access to only what they want. Certainly better than Corbis, who bought the photos and has locked them up.

That's not to say that it can't change, but the libraries have gotten their digital copies, presumably the Internet Archive will crawl the open collections, and the libraries will know what was actually used if it comes to them doing the work again.

What's the worst case scenario? Google goes out of business, all the digital files go away, and the libraries are no worse than before, and some publishers and authors have made some money they wouldn't have gotten under the first sale provision.

What's the upside? 20% instead of snippets, payment to authors (if they can be found), fewer dead trees, universal access.

I don't have any problems with that.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Socializiing 2.0

Facebook is fun, but low on content. OCLC's Web Junction had content, but was focused on public libraries.

Good news! WJ now has a section for academic libraries, for special libraries, and archives and museums. Now there's a chance for connections between different institutions for collaboration and just getting to know one another.

My Preservation Group is growing, and all are invited to join it. I'm slowly getting some links into the Archives Section, and will be adding to it. Right now there are links to preservation handouts, book repair videos, and disaster plans.

So if you want to meet other archivists and librarians online without the Facebook Fluff (R), check out WebJunction. The more of us who join, the more useful it will be! You do have to join, but it's free and spamless.

Moving my wiki

Which will technically not be a wiki any more, though I'll be glad to add anyone as collaborator who wants to add sites or annotations! PBWiki was getting too weird, with hidden ads; the old wiki will remain, but I won't be adding to it.

The new site is a Google Site, at

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Out of Context

It's a phrase we hear a lot during the political season - you took my remark out of context. But do archival collections always have context to remove an item from? Is it always bad to scan just part of a collection?

Take photographic studio collection. They were never meant to be documentary, they get a job, they shoot it, they don't know where it'll be used the next day. There may be some context in that shoot, that series of five street shots of downtown, but they have nothing to do with the passport photo before it or the product shots after, unless you're the odd duck studying the business model of studios. And that's fine.

But most patrons want a portrait of their uncle, not the street shot. Or their house, and don't care about the other thousand. Or a particular building for an article. The context is in the image itself.

Or the family papers, four generations of paper - but only the eyewitness letter about Pearl Harbor has any relevance outside the family. The sons baby pictures have no relevance to that event, or the wedding pictures.

So where's the sin in digitizing what's useful, what's interesting, and just telling people there's more? Or, like LC, posting photos on Flickr and letting people identify them for you?

Let's think about what we're doing, and why we're doing it, and not follow dogmatic policies. The odds are that if a patron looks at the whole collection, they're still going to want that one picture they're looking for. When they post it online or publish it in an article, it's going to be out of context again, just like it was for the studio.

We can keep context in the collection, but we can't send it out into the world with the item. Let's do our job and let the patrons do theirs.