Daily Archives: September 21, 2007

Boston Library Consortium Partners with Open Content Alliance

News Release: Sept. 20, 2007

The Boston Library Consortium, Inc. (BLC) announced today that it will partner with the Open Content Alliance to build a freely accessible library of digital materials from all 19 member institutions. The BLC is the first large-scale consortium to embark on such a self-funded digitization project with the Open Content Alliance. The BLC’s digitization efforts will be based in a new scanning center, the Northeast Regional Scanning Center, unveiled today at the Boston Public Library.

The Consortium will offer high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of public domain materials. Using Internet Archive technology, books from all 19 libraries will be scanned at a cost of just 10 cents per page. Collectively, the BLC member libraries provide access to over 34 million volumes.

The BLC is an association of academic and research libraries located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, dedicated to sharing human and information resources to advance the research and learning of its constituency. Founded in 1970, the Consortium supports resource sharing and enhancement of services to users through programs in cooperative collecting, access to electronic resources and physical collections, and enhanced interlibrary loan and document delivery. Several BLC members are also members of the Boston Regional Library System.

The members of the BLC are Boston College, Boston Public Library, Boston University, Brandeis University, Brown University, the Marine Biological Laboratory & Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, MIT, Northeastern University, the State Library of Massachusetts, Tufts University, University of Connecticut, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Massachusetts Boston, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, University of Massachusetts Lowell, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, University of New Hampshire, Wellesley College, and Williams College.

According to Doron Weber, Program Director, Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge, at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, “The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which has supported the Open Content Alliance from its inception in 2005, salutes this bold move by the BLC and its 19 member libraries to step up to the plate and embrace the great potential of mass digitization in a truly open, non-profit and non-exclusive basis. Unlike corporate backed efforts by Google, Microsoft, Amazon et al, which all impose different, albeit understandable, levels of restriction to protect their investment, the BLC has shown libraries all across the country the right way to take institutional responsibility and manage this historic transition to a universal digital archive that serves the needs of scholars, researchers and the general public without compromise. Bravo for the BLC and the Open Content Alliance!”

The Open Content Alliance (OCA) represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content.

The BLC’s Executive Director, Barbara G. Preece commented, “The Boston Library Consortium is excited about its partnership with the Open Content Alliance and its members. The Consortium believes that this collaboration is the living articulation of the BLC’s view to expand access to its rich resources held by the membership. The BLC/OCA project will ensure that materials digitized will remain free and open to scholars and the public.”

The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded in 1996 to build an Internet library, with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. According to Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and founder of the Internet Archive, “Fortunately many great libraries are weighing the alternatives and choosing to go open instead of putting public domain material under perpetual restrictions.” The BLC’s digitized books will be hosted by the Internet Archive and available to be indexed by any search engine following the BLC and OCA’s philosophy of open access to digitized content.

The scanning center at the heart of the BLC/OCA partnership is located at the Boston Public Library. President of the BPL Bernard Margolis said, “The Boston Public Library is pleased to host this innovative collaborative effort. It is exciting to see the application of the latest in digital scanning technology of the Internet Archive to the enormous task of converting the rich book collections of the BLC libraries for easy access by people around the world. We are, in the most basic and important meaning of the word, “enriching” the world. As we open these books we give opportunity for their use in many new and expanding ways for new and expanding audiences. We are doing what libraries as supposed to do.”

Cathy Norton, Director, Marine Biological Laboratory & Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Library noted, “The opening of the Northeast Regional Scanning Center in the Boston Public Library will make possible the digitization of these great academic collections in a consortial, collaborative, community environment that will add to the knowledge base of humanity via the Internet.”

Barbara G. Preece, Executive Director
Boston Library Consortium, Inc.
700 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02117
(617) 262-6244