Thursday, 13 March 2008

LAC scanning and indexing project

LAC has posted a timely notice regarding a proposed scanning and indexing project with The Generations Network (Ancestry). Read the full text here.

This is an important initiative for genealogy. Similar arrangements by NARA and TNA with TGN and other companies have and are making records available online, at a price, where they would otherwise only be accessible by visiting the institution and searching the record by eye. At a minimum nothing in these agreements reduces access by those who choose not to purchase.

The proposal appears to go at least one step further by making images scanned by TNA available free online, but unindexed. Further, it appears TGN may be agreeing to expand free access to these records for visitors to LAC and other Canadian libraries and archives.

For those who already have subscriptions, or ready free access through a local public library, the choice of Ancestry, the company with the largest subscriber base, as a partner is welcome.

However, LAC needs to ensure that the company it neither getting nor perceived to be getting a sweetheart deal. Thus the statements "This notice provides interested parties with an opportunity to comment on the proposed arrangement, including interest in similar projects" and "The following does Not constitute a call for tender or request for proposal" appear somewhat contradictory.

It should be clear that the agreement with TGN is not exclusive. Other organizations must be free to propose and undertake similar work under a parallel agreement with LAC on the same or other records.

Interestingly NARA also have a recent notice on their web site about a proposed agreement with TNA. LAC could benefit from using some of the language of that proposal. In particular:

- The first selection of archival materials will be a test project and, upon its mutually satisfactory review, the parties will define and continue to define additional archival materials to be digitized and will produce project plans for succeeding projects.
- NARA's agreement with TGN will be non-exclusive. NARA has already reached digitizing agreements with other entities and will continue to consider additional agreements.

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