11 April 2012

Rethinking the Stewardship of Newspapers in the Digital Age - 1

The package I recently received as a result of my ATIP request to Library and Archives Canada included a draft discussion paper, one of LAC's pathfinder projects, by the above title which is worth a look. Draft 1.0, dated November 20, 2009, was in five sections. Here's the subsection from section 3 on the current state of newspaper stewardship.

3.3. Digitized newspapers

In Canada, projects to digitized historical newspapers began to emerge as memory institutions and some private companies recognized the access opportunities of the web. Since the late 1990s, there have been numerous retrospective newspaper digitization projects in Canada, of which some major ones include: Paper of Record, Pages of the Past, the Alberta Heritage Digitization Project, multicultural Canada and the digitization work of Bibliotheque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ).

The following is a summary of observations of the state of Canadian newspaper digitization based on LAC's own newspaper digitization experience as well as an examination of select major initiatives in Canada.

  • while LAC has digitized some special editions of aboriginal and French language newspapers, as well as Canada's first newspaper, the Halifax Gazette and the Canadian Illustrated News, LAC has not pursued a program of mass digitization of newspapers to date. Available funding levels have supported only exhibition scale digitization, not the digitization of full back runs of numerous titles.
  • among Canadian projects geographic coverage is uneven with the most digitization taking place in Alberta and Québec.
  • access models vary based on copyright and business models. Most copyright cleared historical content that has been digitized is freely available, but there are a few business models like the Toronto Star and the Winnipeg Free Press that charge for access to archived content.
  • LAC has not attempted to acquire on legal deposit Canadian newspapers that have been digitized by other organizations. Depending on the digital capacity of the host institution, long-term access to some of this content could be at risk.
  • When the Cold North wind corporation's extensive collection of digitized newspapers was made available for sale the new legal deposit regulations were not in place and LAC was not able to afford its purchase price. It subsequently sold to Google. As of June 2009, it is reported that Google has made 522 titles (4.9 million articles) freely available.
The level of Canadian activity and investment to date does not compare favorably with the newspaper digitization of other countries. International efforts reveal certain trends, emerging best practices, and some key knowledge about the methods, technologies, costs, and comparative merits of various approaches to newspaper digitized nation. Key observations of these international initiatives are:
  1. There is a clear shift from boutique to large-scale digitization.
  2. Funding comes mainly from governments and grant programs.
  3. Most organizations are digitizing out of copyright, historical newspapers.
  4. Most organizations are outsourcing newspaper digitization, and are digitizing from microfilm where possible.
  5. The scaling of output ranges significantly, but in each case it is substantial ranging from 1 to 8 million pages.
  6. There are significant differences in costs depending on the type of post processing undertaken (i.e., whether fulltext search is offered or only browsing access).
  7. There is a mix of collaboration models including private, government, nonprofit, and university partners.
Given the current state of newspaper digitization, what actions should LAC and other memory institutions take to advance the digitization and access to a coherent, pan Canadian retrospective collection of Canadian newspapers?

That's a good question. 

The proposal in section four of the discussion paper "Going Forward: toward a new stewardship model", proposed under the heading Resource Discovery  "to maximize access to current and historical Canadian newspaper content for the current and future benefit of Canadians." It recommended these Strategic Directions
  • seek to increase the body of retrospective Canadian newspapers online through collaborative arrangements
  • develop an access strategy for Canadian newspapers subject to legal deposit that is acceptable to user groups and newspaper publishers
  • seek ways to increase the visibility of online Canadian newspapers
and as Next Steps:

Consult with newspaper publishers, user groups and memory institutions on:
  • the digitization of historic newspaper content
  • the need for a registry of all available digital Canadian newspapers
collections, the digitization of Canadian newspaper content, the preservation of online news, and new directions in online access.

In March 2010 the project issued a report from which I'll abstract the section regarding newspaper digitization tomorrow. 

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