While digitization of printed material has its supporters and dissenters, the benefits from such a process seem to outweigh the cons. Most books or other historical documents are only available in specific libraries and only to the people that have access to them. Likewise, out of print materials are hard to come by. Through digitization, these and other types of material are available to the public that otherwise would not have been available before. Digitization serves an important role in preserving historical and artistic information that is central to Canada’s cultural identity.
“By scanning them and making them freely available online, we aim to make the knowledge residing in these books available to a far wider community… This project is about lowering the bar for access to knowledge,” says Sian Meikle, Digital Services Librarian.
The process of converting print material online is quite a tedious task. “Going full pace, an experienced Internet Archive staff member will scan 475-500 pages per hour,” says Meikle.
The books are selected and then sent to the Internet Archive Digitization centre which is located in Robarts Library. Internet Archive staff members examine the books to make sure they are in good enough shape to be scanned. Books that are either too delicate or in copy are examples of what cannot be scanned. Scanning occurs twice a week between Monday-Friday and there are 18 stations operating. The scanned material must also go through a verification process before it can be put on the Internet Archive website.
According to Meikle, over 270,000 volumes, or roughly 103,000,000 pages have been scanned so far. Aside from the ongoing process of digitization, U of T library is hoping to collaborate with various other associates and the U of T Bookstores in order to give people the opportunity to have a physical copy of the digitized books at a low price through a “Print on Demand” program.
To find out more about this process, visit The Internet Archive website at http://archive.org and http://main.library.utoronto.ca/eir/resources.cfm to connect to online materials at U of T.