On Friday Microsoft announced they are winding down their digitization initiatives, including library scanning of rare books. The company's Live Search Books and Live Search Academic initiatives had digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles.
Microsoft comments that "based on our experience, we foresee that the best way for a search engine to make book content available will be by crawling content repositories created by book publishers and libraries. With our investments, the technology to create these repositories is now available at lower costs for those with the commercial interest or public mandate to digitize book content."
Some of the comments on the announcement, also on the web site, are informative
"book digitization is best left performed by libraries.
Book digitization has become very affordable these days.
Tools like V-shaped book scanners (e.g. BookDrive DIY http://www.atiz.com) enable even small schools or local libraries to have the same scanning capability like those done by Google or Microsoft."and
"Digitization of rare bound content can literally free books lost in the stacks or sitting lonely on some locked and dusty shelf. Anyone who thinks that libraries are too busy or too limited in resources to even attempt this are short sighted in the extreme."
Unlike one local library that is sitting on its duff watching, posed to become roadkill, the McGill University Library is one that has an active digitization program.
The McGill Library and Collections Digital Program is created to digitally capture and provide electronic access to McGill University's unique rare and special collections via the World Wide Web using advanced digital technologies. These collections include rare books, maps, manuscripts, prints, photographs, sound recordings, and more.
If you have an ancestor prominent in these professions during this time period chances are he will be mentioned. Doing my regular test search for Northwood revealed William Northwood, a prominent Ottawan with a plumbing business, appointed as treasurer of a society, and his son George receiving certification as an architect.
Even if your ancestors weren't, you can also use the resource to find out about activities in the community. For example, there was a note on the departure for Canada of a monument to the two Ottawa Sharpshooters killed during the 1995 North West Rebellion which had been cast in England, and about the designer of a gravestone memorial to these two men.