This afternoon, in the midst of the remnants of DC’s massive snowfall, Public.Resource.Org held the inaugural meeting of the International Amateur Scanning League. The purpose of the group is to organize volunteers to create digital copies of NARA’s video holdings on DVD so that the digital copies can up uploaded to the Internet Archive and the PublicResource.Org YouTube channel and shared with the public at no charge. You can find more details here. This is an extension of the successful effort led by Carl Malamud to have the public purchase all the NARA DVDs being sold on Amazon so that they could be digitized and uploaded for free public use (which you may remember from a post back in December).
David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, came out to help kick off the effort even though the Federal government was officially closed. One of the attendees recorded the event, and I was thrilled to hear Ferriero’s remarks. He thanked Malamud publicly for helping “push us” into this century. He’s excited about this project because one of his goals is to increase the use of technology so that researchers can use NARA’s resources from “wherever you are, any time you need it, and the only way we’re going to be able to do that is with partnerships like this.” He’s especially excited about the crowdsourcing aspect of this venture. One thing he’s working on right now is to increase NARA’s capacity for “risk taking.” He wants them to be “leaders instead of laggers” in terms of technology and wants NARA to increase communication with users both to learn more about new technologies that are becoming available and to learn more about what they need to do their work. He discussed his pride in assembling the Digital Experience Group at the New York Public Library, who went out and educated the staff about “how people are using information, expecting to get information and the kinds of technology that they’re expecting to find it on, to turn the whole culture around. Instead of building a digital library and expecting people to find you, figuring out where are the people and how can we get our content in front of them, and that’s what it’s all about.” That’s what he wants to do at NARA. So he’s really excited about this project. He even suggested some improvements to the process and volunteered to buy an additional DVD duplicator to help speed things up.
As Malamud writes in the announcement I linked to:
There are a variety of models for public-private partnerships. It is our hope that the International Amateur Scanning League will pave the way for a host of new initiatives that will help us all make the public domain more accessible by crowd-sourcing digitization of government archives. These efforts are not meant to replace private sector efforts, and certainly do not alleviate the need for government to step up their own digitization initiatives, such as the establishment of a National Scan Center.
This is a great example of NARA’s willingness to work with the researcher community to make their holdings more available. Remember, if you have similar ideas or want to give feedback about NARA’s interactions with the public, you can make suggestions to inform the development of their Open Government Plan. And, of course, if you have ideas or suggestions for similar projects or know of other models from other archives, I’d love to hear about them here. Congratulations to Carl and all those who ventured out through the drifts to kick off this great initiative!