Considering the obvious benefits, why aren’t libraries digitising more of their fragile book collections? Librarians know the advantages of digital forms of information and would gladly digitize some portions of the collections in their libraries if this seemed to be a viable option. Since most librarians already know the benefits of using a book digitization services to digitize part of a library’s collection, let’s consider some of the reasons more libraries don’t have book digitization services on their priority lists.
The primary reasons are:
- Relatively low level of use of many of the items librarians would find to be suitable candidates for digitization (e.g., preservation of important and currently irreplaceable information such as local history items)
Libraries work within a limited budget. Finding funding, as well as organizing a large book digitization services project, can be a huge undertaking. While the benefits of producing digital copies for irreplaceable items is undeniable, the relatively small use common with many of those items, family histories, for example, is one factor that keeps digitization projects on the back burner. Often, few people outside of an occasional local patron may be interested in accessing much of what’s in the collection.
Copyright is another concern. One of the benefits of digital editions is their potential for online display, where virtually anyone, anywhere can access the information as often as they want without damaging the copy. However, if an item is still under copyright, then a digital copy can’t be made available online without permission. The prospect of researching the copyright status for a large number of items is enough to end nearly all projects before they begin.
We Know the Solutions and can Help In Digitizing Your Library’s Books
- If there’s no money in the budget, preservation or digitization grants are available. For example, working with the National Endowment for Humanities, the Library of Congress sponsors a program to digitize historic newspapers from around the country for use on their website.
- A significant number of volumes of local history materials such as city directories do have broad appeal, and these items are usually in most need of preservation which book digitization services offer while it also simultaneously greatly improves access to the information. Develop criteria to prioritize the items under consideration for book digitization services.
- According to the U.S. copyright office’s Circular 15a, Duration of Copyright, “Applying these standards, all works published in the United States before January 1, 1923, are in the public domain.” In other words, if the physical item you intend to copy from was published in the U.S. before 1923 then the object is in the public domain, can legally be copied, and the copy can be made available online. The keyword here is published. A handwritten letter might have been written before 1923, but this does not necessarily mean it was published. If the cost of legal advice threatens your project, select items with a publisher and publication date stated on the object. If more recent editions published after 1923 exist (the year may be a little later as the year’s pass, 1923 is a safe bet), they can’t be used for copying.
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