Daily Archives: March 9, 2010

For Special Collections, Digitization is a Win/Win

Sometimes the goal of providing our users with access to materials conflicts with our responsibility for preserving those rare and delicate materials.  Many of the valuable materials in our Special Collections are old and fragile, and could be damaged by even the most careful use.  We would like to make these materials available digitally, but have neither the equipment nor the resources to undertake a major scanning project.  Fortunately, the Internet Archive,   a non-profit digital library containing almost two million books, already includes full-text electronic versions of many of our titles.

Consequently, we can provide access to the materials by linking from our catalog record for the print volume to the Internet Archive record for the electronic version. For example, go to the OWHL catalogue and look for Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’ The Gates Ajar (1869.) Notice that the record contains an Internet Archive icon.  This means that with one click you can go directly to the full text of the book.  You can read the book online, send it to your smart phone, or download it in a number of formats—including those for the Kindle and other ebook reading devices. All illustrations, marginalia, or other markings in the original book are reproduced exactly.

Unlike Google’s Book Search project, the Internet Archive is non-profit.  Internet Archive records never contain ads, and the materials are very stable.  Tim Sprattler, our Special Collections librarian, is systematically working his way through our collection to add these Internet Archive links to all of our Special Collection books that have already been scanned as a part of the project.

But what about our Special Collections materials that are not part of the Internet Archive?  That is where non sibi comes in! The project continues to grow as libraries send their unique, public domain materials to be scanned.  Fortunately for us, one of the scanning venues is at the Boston Public Library.  Tim will be headed there over the spring break, with a set of about 20 titles to add to the project.  To offset expenses, donating libraries pay 10 cents per page for the scanning services.  The first collection to be scanned will include  the novel My Three Years at Andover by James Lee Perrin, PA 1902, writing under the pseudonym Ewer Struly. In addition, we will contribute several small books that were part of a series of lectures written by Samuel Read Hall, the first Principal of the Teachers [English] Seminary at Andover. The first edition of Lectures on School-Keeping, published in 1829, has already been scanned.  We will be contributing the 3rd edition, published in 1831, which includes a chapter on how to locate a school and lay out a classroom.



I was devastated to learn yesterday that I was outbid in an ebay auction on an original piece of art titled “Inorganic,” drawn by my daughter-in-law.   Matt and Robbi have introduced a periodic auction  on their blog Idiots’ Books where they feature one of Robbi’s creations for sale most weeks.  I love her stuff, and am convinced that when she becomes famous they will be worth enough to make up for what happened to my 401-K last year.

But this round of bidding wasn’t about making an investment.  I had wanted to buy the picture for my grandson Orin’s birthday second birthday, coming in May.  As the bidding intensified, I queried both of my daughters to make sure that I wasn’t bidding against one of them.  The competition was fierce, and ultimately I was done in by ebay’s automatic bid feature. I set my top bid pretty high, thinking that if I needed to spend more than that to get the picture, Lindsay would probably rather that I just make a contribution to Ori’s college fund.   It is always difficult to go down in defeat.  What rubbed salt in the wound was ebay’s artificially intelligent attempts to make me feel better by offering to let me buy, by way of consolation,  many other items, mostly textbooks, with the word ‘inorganic’ in the title.  The silver lining is that in bidding up the price of “Inorganic” I helped Robbi come a little bit closer to what her art is actually worth.