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

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Digital Strategy at the Library of Congress

Apparently, the Library of Congress is finally beginning a comprehensive plan to digitize some of their vast collections of records. As the claimed largest library in the world, they are certainly not the leader in the number and value of their online offerings. As genealogists, the recent history of the Library of Congress is far from promising. On November 25, 2013, the Library of Congress closed its Local History and Genealogy Reading Room and moved the reference collection into the "stacks." Access to this traditional genealogical resource is now in the Main Reading room. From my own experience, without guidance, a first-time user would not be able to find the books and other resources.

There is also an inherent contradiction in the current efforts of the Library of Congress due to the fact that they are also the agency responsible for the controversial access policies inherent in the United States Copyright Law because the Copyright Office is an integral part of the Library. Because of Congressional action, use and access to many valuable research materials have been overwhelmingly restricted. It does seem unlikely that the governmental agency most responsible for "protecting" and limiting access to intellectual resources should become the leader in making those same resources available.

Policies and budgetary constraints at both the Library of Congress and the National Archives have severely limited the number and availability of digitized records from both institutions. It would be a huge change if this present plan includes real changes in the number and availability to access items in both institutions collections.

It will be interesting to see what will happen, although I do not expect any significant changes during what is left of my lifetime. As a final comment, I would suggest that the Internet Archive or may become the largest library in the world considering its growth during the past few months and years assuming they catch up with the National Library of Australia.

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