Monday, September 20, 2004

Statewide digitization initiatives

At the American Library Association conference in June 2004, a group of people got together to discuss the statewide digitization initiatives that are happening in the U.S. Eight people gave project updates. (You can read the meeting minutes at http://lists.mdch.org/public/digistates/2004-July/000124.html) Perhaps more states than that are involved in major digitization projects, but some (like New York) are not. If digitization is an important technology that will make more information available to users (without them having to make special requests or travel long distances), if it will help our educational systems, and if it will help to preserve information (content) for the future, why aren't more states spearheading digitization efforts? There are likely several explanations.

First, some states may see more potential in other efforts such as funding statewide database access. Hopefully, they have truly studied to see if the potential for these efforts outweighs that of digitization.

Second, some state governments may not yet understand why digitizing materials within their states is important. They may not realize the potential audience or positive impact it will have on the state.

Third, they may be waiting to learn from the successes and failures of other states. This is admirable, but the longer state governments wait to fund digitization projects, the hard it will be to catch up.

Forth, a state may just be "paralyzed", unable to decide how to move forward with digitization. Sadly, state governments -- like any government -- can get paralyzed and unable to make a decision about what to do, how to do it, and how to fund it.

If a statewide effort is happening in your state, support it. Use it, point others to it, and tell your government that you appreciate their efforts. If your state is not supporting statewide or even regional digitization efforts, start mentioning it to your representatives. Tell them why it is important. Perhaps even point them (or their staff members) to projects that would be of interest to them and their agendas. Hopefully your efforts will get them to realize the potential and then get them to think about funding such efforts.


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