Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dick Eastman Comments -- Good Job

Dick Eastman posted a response to a letter concerning "Scanning Books in the Family History Library: Not Everyone is Happy." I highly recommend reading the entire article. I fully agree with Dick's opinions and his assessment of the situation. This is particularly true if you had any insight into library operation and particularly the selection of items to put on the shelves.

I could make some of the same comments, but Dick did a wonderful job of replying to the issues, so there is no real need for a rehash. There are a number of issues raised, however, and not all of them are completely covered by Dick's post. Here are some of the issues I see that need to be considered by genealogists as a whole.

1. The substitution of digital records for paper originals, whether they be books or other other documents and the the disposition of the originals. Many people ask me what I do with the originals once I have digitized the record. I keep all originals, but some people have questioned keeping originals. is in the process of trying to obtain a physical copy of every book ever published for preservation. Is that necessary or even possible?

2. Whether or not there is some virtue in "holding a paper version" of a book as an object? What is more important, the physical book or the information contained in the book? Isn't a physical book just an outmoded method of transmitting information? I recently checked out an 800 page book on learning to use Adobe Photoshop from my local library. I found the book very useful and purchased an updated eBook version. I still have all of the information in the book, but I can read it at my leisure on my iPhone or my iPad and I don't have to lug around 800 pages. Are physical books necessary?

3. Is there really a difference between reading a book on an iPad or a Kindle rather than holding a paper book? Is there a physical difference in the size or readability of the text? Or are the differences psychological?

4. Would you rather have a library full of stacks of books or have universal access to the information?

5. When was the last time you went to a library and checked out a physical book?

6. Will online availability of research sources replace physical libraries in the future?

Think about it.


  1. As someone who scans books for a living I totally disagree.

    First it is a very small step between cutting the spines off books prior to digitising and cutting the spines off books before disposal. George Orwell could have suggested that in his novel 1984.

    Digitising has its place but that place is not to repalce books but to augement them, I know of a number of banks who digitised their records in the 1990s only to have the digitised records microfilmed in the naughties when the discovered digitised archives do not work.

    They are to easily corrupted, changed and need regular updates and resources to access them.

    Incidentally we at Anguline Research Archives never cut the spines off books we scan.

  2. For those of us without good access to fast internet/computer service, digitization is of dubious benefit. Consider those who barely have reliable electricity, if any at all.

    It is so much faster to look at a hard-copy book index than to wait 20 to 40 minutes for a digital page to load. And the digital process is still subject to error; so many index links are not even to the right image.

  3. As a librarian in a public library, it is so disheartening to have to discuss over and over again the importance of books in a multimedia age. Not everyone can afford an ereader or a tablet and not everyone has internet connection. Also, national organizations have a greater chance of being funded for digitizing. Federal records have a greater chance of being digitized due to mass appeal. State, regional, and local resources do not fare well in regards to digitizing. The funds are just no there. To look at most state, regional, and local records, it still requires a book through a trip to the library, inner-library loan, microfilm, or manuscripts. E-books and digitized records are used to compliment records, not replace them. For special collections, digital images provide an added layer of preservation so the originals are not handled daily. For society in general, it is not a question of either digitial or the book. Many realize that to find relevant information using all types of media is the most helpful.