While I was home on holidays the last two weeks, I managed to catch this item on CBC radio on December 29th, under the heading:
Canadian Libraries join race to digitize books
I can't find any more information out about this project on the CARL webpage, so if you have any more information let me know, otherwise I'll keep looking.
A major effort to digitize millions of books and other documents at libraries is beginning across Canada.
Canadian research libraries have formed a digitization alliance called Alouette Canada to get their books online.
The process involves scanning the millions of books available in Canadian libraries so they can be read by internet users. Parts of the virtual library should be available beginning next year — and it'll be free to use.
Tim Mark, executive director of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, says Alouette is taking on a large project that will extend over several years.
"The initial estimate is three to four million titles so the scope is huge," he says. "I think it's fair to say that librarians and research libraries in particular have seen the vision and the possibility and the potential for universal access to all knowledge."
University of Toronto chief librarian Carol Moore will head a group of 27 major Canadian academic research libraries that have joined the Alouette Canada project.
"A research library like the University of Toronto needs to preserve access to knowledge over the very long term," Moore says.
U of T has been slowly transferring books from print to the internet for 10 years.
"It's not a huge number; it's only about 20,000 items that are books or pamphlets. When you compare that with the size of our collection — in the millions — it's just a beginning step," Moore says.
When U of T began digitizing its texts, the cost was about $1 a page. With advances in technology, the cost has dropped to about 10 cents a page, she says. New scanners can scan up to 500 pages an hour.
Alouette will step up the digitizing process. Even rare documents will be available. Among them are fragile works from the 16th century, Banting and Best's papers about their discovery of insulin and, from Memorial University, important documents related to the history of Newfoundland.
The Canadian group is working with a big international effort to digitize books, the Open Content Alliance, based in San Francisco. Canada's libraries will be co-operating with international libraries, such as the U.S. Library of Congress and the British Library, which already have large digitized collections.
The British Library's digitized collection of written works from before 1800 is already available on online databases.
The process of digitizing books has been stepped up this year with the entry of Google, Amazon.com and other commercial enterprises.
Microsoft announced in November that it had signed a deal with the British Library to scan 100,000 books and put them online.
Google is already facing a suit from publishers for its Google Print Library Project, which will scan millions of books from the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Oxford universities, as well as the New York Public Library.
Publishers and authors groups fear that books still under copyright protection will be put online. In Canada, the focus is on works in the public domain, so the copyright controversy is not an issue.