Friday, June 09, 2006

LEXICONds and regional library cooperation

Rich Morgan and I went on a field trip today, visiting LEXICONds’ book scanning operation on Mayfield Road, in Chesterland. Since its parent is General Bookbinding, we toured its big operation next door as well. The heart of LEXICONds is a $125,000 Kirtas automatic book scanning machine, which uses an overhead camera and mirrors to photograph alternating pages of books and feed the resulting digital images to several people at workstations for cleanup. The output files can be varying degrees of polished text, PDF and/or reprinted paper, depending upon the customer’s specifications.

While a very interesting display of the technology that is reformatting the past centuries of print technology and making these older works a part of the new digital universe, it inadvertently reminded me of other issues we should be dealing with. One of the customer orders we saw on a table was a copy of a Cleveland city directory, being scanned and reprinted for one of our local public libraries. Apparently this sort of work – making digital copies of local history resources for libraries – is not uncommon, but there is no coordination between libraries to insure that only one such digitizing operation is performed. Nothing stops another library from spending hundreds of dollars digitizing the exact same volume, unaware that a fellow institution had already done so and could have provided a copy far more cheaply.

Coordinating such digitizing projects, so none of us accidentally duplicate precious resources, is a primary goal of the Greater Cleveland History Digital Library Consortium, but we haven’t developed the mechanism for sharing such information between members yet and, in this case, we aren’t reaching the libraries who haven’t joined the consortium (this was actually another branch of a member library). No big harm has been done in this instance, but it’s a reminder that the goal of coordinating and sharing such digital production has not been adequately addressed. Cooperation of this sort would painlessly advance the necessary objectives of Regionalism, as applied to libraries, and help us all better manage our dwindling funds, while providing better service to patrons.

Meanwhile, thanks to Steve DiMare and his staff for the tour and to Rich for lunch.


At 10:45 PM, Anonymous Angela O'Neal said...

You might also want to work with the DLF/OCLC Registry of Digital Masters, which can help to ensure that efforts to digitize commonly held works are not duplicated.

Angela O'Neal
Digital Projects Manager
Ohio Historical Society


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