Monday, January 02, 2006

Digitizing without the duplication of efforts

The JISC/CURL report mentioned earlier noted that someone (or some agency) needs to coordinate efforts so that there is not the duplication of effort. Programs try not to duplicate the efforts of others already as a way of saving money. (Why spend money doing what someone else has already done?) But it is difficult to know what another organization has planned unless everyone discloses their intent ahead of time AND that disclosure can be found. There is no central authority keeping track of who is doing what.

Who should be that authority? In some regions, that authority might be the state library. Some state libraries seem prone to step up to this role. However, it would be better if that coordination came from the national level to better ensure that regions didn't duplicate efforts (not just small institutions). Checking in with this central authority might be part of the grant process for obtaining funding.

A benefit would not only be that efforts would not be duplicated, but that partnerships might be formed. Like projects could concentrate on digitizing complementary materials rather than the same materials. The results is that better collections would be created.

Imagine if the national libraries took on this role. They then could exchange information, promote projects (digitized collections) and perhaps also work to eliminate duplicate efforts (e.g., a library in Europe digitizing the same materials as a library in South America).

And then imagine the potential bureaucracy. Yuck! let's re-imagine a faster, less bureaucratic way of doing this. Could someone create a central database where people could enter the project/program information along with a "status" that said where they were in the process? Then other programs could search the database BEFORE starting something new to see if someone is already doing it. Programs could talk to each other if the materials sounded similar, then decide if they should collaborate. It might not eliminate all duplication, but it could be a good start.

Who should create and house the database? The United Nations with help (marketing/promotion) from the national libraries. It could be a funding requirement that programs check this database and then disclose how their projects would be different or complementary. Perhaps we should as UNESCO to take this on?

If the U.N. can't do it then maybe one of the companies that produces library management software -- and thus has the capacity for this as well as the people network to pull it off -- could do this (e.g., SirsiDynix). The problem with having a company do this, of course, is that companies aren't always trusted. (Even companies like OCLC have their detractors.)

Perhaps for now we'll just have to follow the developments in the U.K. and see how they handle this. Hopefully they'll find a way of eliminating duplication without creating a bureaucratic mess. We won't be able to wait for the final result of their efforts before we do something ourselves, but perhaps we can see enough of their work to know if we should duplicate their efforts in order to eliminate duplicate digitization programs.

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1 comment:

Jenn Riley said...

The DLF/OCLC Registry of Digital Masters was created for this purpose. I haven't seen it taking off, however.