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Digital library projects update

Library Systems Newsletter [September 1995]

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The Library of Congress has awarded a $615,000 contract to the Center for Children and Technology (CCT), an educational consulting firm, to help the Library determine the most effective methods for K-12 educators to use digitized versions of primary source materials from the Library's collections. The award is made possible by a W. F. Kellog Foundation grant last October to the Library of Congress for the National Digital Library Program. The National Digital Library Program, in collaboration with other major research institutions, aims to place 5 million items on the Internet by the year 2000.

Requirements in the one-year contract, which can be extended an additional two years, include requiring CCT to survey the use of primary source materials in K-12 schools, review Library of Congress collections to determine which are best suited to meet K-12 requirements, assess the technological capability of schools and develop teaching materials for two Library of Congress historical collections.

If the Library exercises the optional two years of the contract, CCT may develop and produce a CD-ROM of the Library's historical collections adapted to the needs of the K-12 educational community, design a curriculum for training teachers on the use of primary source materials, and examine the applicability of materials developed during the first year to introductory-level college coursework.

Although the Library of Congress does not serve persons below age 18 in its reading rooms, the contents of the National Digital Library Program are accessible electronically to students in elementary and high school. Therefore, LC feels a responsibility to make sure that these materials be used effectively by students of all ages.

Before awarding the contract the Library conducted American Memory, a five-year pilot and a two-year test at 44 sites across the country beginning in 1990. The pilot, which included K-12 schools, provided the participating institutions with digital materials from the Library's collections on CD-ROM. When the project ended, a user evaluation was issued. Because the evaluation showed that schoolchildren were the heaviest users of American Memory materials, the Library felt an obligation to continue to explore ways to deliver primary sources to this audience.

The effort to digitize print resources is not limited to the K-12 sector. There is an equally ambitious project at the higher education level. The Columbia University Libraries have been awarded a three-year $700,000 grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to evaluate the potential for electronic books to supplement or replace traditional printed works in research libraries. The goal of the study is to assess the economic impact on libraries and publishers and the usefulness to students and scholars of providing access from workstations, on campus and worldwide, to reference works now available only in libraries or commercially in print form.

As a key component of a digital library, electronic books may help maintain the economic viability of the scholarly monograph, enable libraries to stay current with increasing amounts of scholarship within financial and space constraints, and provide researchers with convenient access to reference and monographic titles.

The first phase of the project will include works from Columbia University Press and Oxford University Press. Additional publishers are expected to join the project as it progresses. Oxford will provide about 100 books in each year of the project. In the first year, Oxford University Press and Columbia University librarians will select titles in the subject areas of neuroscience and philosophy for the electronic collection. The books also will be available in paper format in Columbia's collections.

Columbia University Press reference works also will be included in the study. These include The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, The Concise Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, The Columbia World of Quotations, The Columbia Granger's World off Poetry, The Columbia Chronicles of American Life 1910-1992, and The Columbia Guide to Standard American Usage.

Evaluation at each stage of online book delivery will enhance the design of new services introduced and provide baseline! comparative information during this period of development. Among the issues to be studied are:

  • Costs and potential savings to libraries compared with paper-based collections. Detailed cost analyses will measure initial investments and ongoing capital and operating costs, including the costs of the books, technical support, and user instructional services.
  • Nature and impact of use. Factors affecting user choices and the impact on the users' work will be assessed through surveys, focus groups, and quantitative measure of use.
  • Intellectual property. Critical factors that determine whether online books are effective for dissemination of scholarly work will be analyzed. The project will seek to develop model intellectual property policies and agreements.

During the project, the Columbia community will have access to online books via the campus fiber optic network. A variety of electronic and print delivery options will be tested in order to assess relative costs and user reactions.

View Citation
Publication Year:1995
Type of Material:Article
Language English
Published in: Library Systems Newsletter
Publication Info:Volume 15 Number 09
Issue:September 1995
Publisher:American Library Association
Place of Publication:Chicago, IL
Notes:Howard S. White, Editor-in-Chief; Richard W. Boss, Contributing Editor
Subject: Digital libraries
Record Number:5441
Last Update:2022-08-06 21:08:16
Date Created:0000-00-00 00:00:00