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I hate Digitization, and this is why

by on August 14, 2012

I hate digitization.  It’s a weird thing for someone with my history, and my background to say.  I’ve been involved in digital projects for 6 years, and now it’s my professional full time job.

But, I never planned to be into digitization.  This isn’t my passion.  It’s just something I’ve got a lot of background with because when I was in my 20s, the idea of scanning books made sense to me because of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “I Robot… You, Jayne” .  The episode aired in 1997 (a long cry from Project Gutenberg’s start in 1971, but before digitziation was really seized upon by the general library world). In the show, they scan books and one of the characters gives a short speech about how digital books are the future.  I watched this episode, went to work in a library, and suddenly they were talking about scanning books, so I started submitting projects.  That’s how I got roped into all this… because of a TV show…

Here are the following reasons why I hate digitization (I’ll balance this out with things I love about it later):

  • It’s slow.  No matter what you are told, it is a slow monotonous process, especially if you are dealing with lots of rare important materials or just a ton of pictures.
  • There are other things, besides digitization, that you have to deal with.  Issues about copyright.  Issues about people not understanding the internet and how it works.  Dealing with people who have a vested interest in your failing. Dealing with pushy venders who think you are made of money.  That kind of thing.
  • It is still hard to explain to people what I do.  I’m a librarian, but I don’t touch books and I don’t talk to patrons.  I don’t do anything like your high school librarian. I don’t even wear glasses.
  • I end up having to explain the same things over and over.  The issues we are dealing with now are the evolution of the same issues we were dealing with in 2004.

So, enough about what I hate.  Here is the short list of things I love about it:

  • Despite the fact that we can only make available things that are old (in the public domain) or things that we get permission to make public, I think it’s important to get this material out to the public because it is theirs.  It’s in the public domain; they have a right to it.  In that way, libraries doing digitization are fighting for the public good.

… That’s actually the only thing I like about digitization, but it’s a good one.


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