Chasing the Digital Dragon
by Dick Kaser
Over the past few years, it’s been fascinating to watch as museums and archives follow in the footsteps of libraries by digitizing and providing access to their collections, which have otherwise been available only to a few, often wearing surgical gloves.
The digitization of library collections, coupled with the development of the internet and the deployment of new discovery tools, has resulted in a renaissance of information sharing. Similarly, the opening up of the contents of archival shoeboxes and museum specimen bottles has created a new age for not only scholars but for an entire global population of inquisitive people.
As archivist Jan Zastrow remarks in her guest column this month, there are still ways that archives and libraries are different, but they share many common interests and concerns when it comes to digitization, preservation, and access.
In managing my own computer files over the last couple of decades, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges inherent in keeping digital materials accessible for even a short length of time. And it concerns me greatly that almost everyone on the internet seems to have embraced digital expression without a thought to its imminent evaporation.
Given that everyone has the tools to digitize now, the users of your library are no doubt embarking on their own digitization missions. That’s why I invited Donald T. Hawkins, the author of a new book Information Today, Inc. has just published on personal archiving, to contribute some tips for your patrons who want to digitize, preserve, and share photos and other artifacts in order to document their personal heritage.
The issue also contains an update on the big digital library projects we’ve been hearing so much about the last couple of years.
Whether your collection is big or small, institutional or personal, this issue goes out to everyone who’s on a digital mission—which no doubt includes each and every one of you.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor