Library-Nonprofit Partnership to Digitize Government Documents

Public.Resource.Org and the Internet Archive are partnering with the Boston Public Library to make digital copies of the library's paper-based government documents collection, which will then be made available on the Internet, the New York Times reports.

The project — the brainchild of the founders of the two organizations, Carl Malamud and Brewster Kahle — will take two years, require the scanning by hand of an estimated 100 million pages of government hearings and related publications, and cost an estimated $6 million, according to the project's sponsors. To date, the project has been financed by a $250,000 grant from the Kahle/Austin Foundation, which Kahle established with his wife, Mary Austin, and a matching grant from the Omidyar Network.

The Boston Public Library recently obtained a substantial collection of congressional hearing documents from Harvard University, and librarians said they planned to begin by digitizing the House Committee on Un-American Activities hearings from the 1950s, which are regularly sought after by the library's patrons. The library also is interested in scanning local Boston and Massachusetts documents and is in the process of creating its own digital archive.

The project is one of a series of digitization efforts that Malamud has undertaken. This summer he embarked on a separate effort to digitize all federal case law, and he is negotiating with two private companies to purchase existing digital collections, which would drastically shorten the time required for the undertaking. Malamud said he hopes to make the workings of the government more accessible at no cost. "This is society's operating system."

John Markoff. "Documents of Library in Boston to Go on Web." New York Times 12/27/2007.