National Academies Press: OpenBook

LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress (2000)

Chapter: 2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century

« Previous: 1. Digital Revolution, Library Evolution
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

2
THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS: FROM JEFFERSON TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

Libraries are repositories of the past and so cherish and embody their own histories. They are accretive organizations in principle, constantly expanding from the center as item after item is added to the concatenated shelves and bins in which the collections are stored. Library management tends to be conservative, so library leadership tends similarly to an accretive style. The present management structure of the Library of Congress cannot be understood without a sense of the history that has brought it about.1 To tell the story in this way, however, is not to suggest that there cannot be critical junctures in history that change sharply the way units are organized or management is done.

A BRIEF HISTORY

The Library of Congress was established in 1800, when the seat of government was moved from New York to the new capital city of Washington. The joint committee that oversees the Library of Congress (LC) was established in 1802 and was the first congressional joint committee. After Washington was burned by the British during the War of 1812, Thomas Jefferson reestablished the Library by selling his own personal

1  

A wealth of information about the Library of Congress—past, present, and future—is accessible from the Library’s Web site at <http://www.loc.gov>.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

collection of 6,487 volumes to Congress in 1815. At the time, Jefferson’s library was considered the finest in America.

According to its mission, the Library is “to acquire, organize, preserve, secure, and sustain for the present and future of the Congress and the nation a comprehensive record of American history and creativity and a universal collection of human knowledge.” More recently, the mission of LC has been articulated as follows: “To make its resources available and useful to the Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations.”2

The initial holdings of the Library were a reference tool rather than any attempt at a comprehensive collection or a collection of American publications. The Library was chiefly a library of legal information that might prove useful to legislators. Twenty percent of the initial holdings were law books in the strict sense. When Jefferson sold his multifaceted, multilingual collection to Congress, he felt the need to defend its diversity by stating that there was “no subject to which a Member of Congress might not have occasion to refer.”3 This combination of missions—LC as a reference for legislators and LC as a comprehensive collection of human creativity—has continued to affect the course of the Library. The legislative and reference function was emphasized in the 1832 legislation creating the Law Library of Congress. This branch of the Library of Congress was housed in the Capitol until 1935 and was administered until that time by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Progress toward the comprehensive collection that Mr. Jefferson had favored was interrupted in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1851 a fire in the Capitol destroyed 35,000 volumes of the 55,000 in the collection at the time, although Congress responded quickly by appropriating the funds to replace the lost books. The fire was followed in 1859 by a repeal of the law providing for copyright deposits at the Library. U.S. copyright activities became centralized at the Patent Office, which meant that LC and the Smithsonian Institution no longer received copies of the books and pamphlets deposited for copyright under the 1846 law providing for the enrichment of library collections through copyright deposit.

Efforts to build the collection resumed in the 1860s. For example, the Library acquired the 40,000 volumes from the Smithsonian’s library in

2  

As stated in “The Mission and Strategic Priorities of the Library of Congress: 1997-2004,” available online at <http://lcweb.loc.gov/ndl/mission.html>.

3  

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel H. Smith, September 21, 1814, Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress, as described in Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress, by John Y. Cole (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1993). Available online at <http://lcweb.loc.gov/loc/legacy/>.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

1866. And by 1870, Congress had passed laws establishing the U.S. Copyright Office as an arm of the Library, thereby centralizing all copyright activities. Even though photography and serial publications were becoming more common and popular in the 1870s and inexpensive prints had been readily available since the beginning of the nineteenth century, the copyright laws were intended primarily to manage and acquire books.

What is now called the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress was authorized in 1886. The building, with reading and exhibition spaces for the general public, reflects two forces affecting the Library: (1) the obligation, contained in its charter, to “the nation” and (2) the influx of general materials that followed the creation of copyright deposit laws in 1870. In 1897, when the new building was occupied, the staff increased from 42 to 108, and separate divisions were formed for serials, maps, music, manuscripts, and graphic arts.

In 1914, Congress created the Legislative Reference Service, renamed the Congressional Research Service in 1970, to accommodate the research needs of members of Congress. For its first decade, the Legislative Reference Service focused on maintaining indexes relating to laws and legislative acts, a charge arising from work started by the Law Library.4

Other congressional creations during the twentieth century emphasized extending the forms of material that fall within the purview of the Library. In 1931, the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped was established to create materials for disabled audiences. In 1976, the American Folklife Center and the American Television and Radio Archives were created. In 1977, the Center for the Book followed, with the National Film Preservation Board established in 1988. The American Memory Project, established in 1990 and expanded into the National Digital Library Program (NDLP), with its goal of making 5 million digital items available through the Internet, in some ways extends these activities. The NDLP moves the Library of Congress deeper into content creation and management and addresses K-12 students as well as adult audiences—a new arena for the Library.

The Library played a key role during the twentieth century in the area of cataloging. Dewey’s Decimal System was established in 1876,5 and the Library of Congress began creating index cards around the turn of the century. In 1902, legislation enabled the Library to sell cataloging cards to American libraries to help them to address the expense of doing routine

4  

Donald R. DeGlopper, from the section on the Law Library for the “LC Encyclopedia,” draft dated July 31, 1998, p. 6.

5  

Melvil Dewey established his classification while at Amherst College and expanded it at the New York State Library.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

cataloging. This program led to a uniformity of cataloging across libraries subscribing to the service and some structures to support standard cataloging procedures. Other formal research aids were created and advanced in the Library at around that time. A comprehensive index of legislation from all countries in the world was proposed in 1902 and led to the creation of indexes to federal statutes (1903 to 1910) and various tools for indexing foreign statutes as well through the early years of the twentieth century.

The Library led the development during the 1960s of the machine-readable cataloging (MARC) format for identifying and exchanging information about bibliographic materials, which became a national standard in 1971. As part of a consortium that included the American Library Association and British participants, it developed the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules (AACR), guidelines for cataloging. These efforts were complemented by the creation and management of LC subject headings and the LC cataloging system that replaced the Dewey decimal system in many libraries. Elsewhere, the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) led in the distribution of catalog materials, while integrated library systems began to be developed. The Library has made substantial efforts to extend the AACR cataloging rules and the MARC format into media besides books and participated in the establishment of an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for books and an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) for serials.6 LC’s role in developing tools for managing collections has been as significant as the collections that it has gathered.7

UNITS OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

The Library of Congress comprises four major service units, directed from the Office of the Librarian, which is in turn supported by service units that offer enabling infrastructure to the major service units. The structure is explained by history. In particular, Library Services continues to be the oldest unit of the organization, responsible for the collections and public services that most people think of as the Library of Congress.

6  

See Chapter 5 for an in-depth discussion of cataloging—MARC, AACR, OCLC, and related topics.

7  

For additional reading on the history of the Library, see Jefferson’s Legacy: A Brief History of the Library of Congress, by John Y. Cole (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1993) and America’s Library: The Story of the Library of Congress 1800-2000, by James Conway (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000), available online at <http://lcweb.loc.gov/loc/legacy/>.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

The Law Library has a slightly different but parallel history, while the Copyright Office and the Congressional Research Service (CRS) arose at different dates in response to quite specific congressional mandates. The major service units have interdependencies and links to each other but still function as loosely coupled organizations, even when the staff for each inhabit different floors of the same building. Figure 2.1 shows the overall organizational structure of the Library of Congress. Figures 2.2 and 2.3 provide detail on the Library’s supporting infrastructure and on its Library Services unit, respectively. The remainder of this chapter outlines the organization of LC as the committee found it in 1999. In some cases, the description in this chapter includes recommendations made as part of the committee’s overall charge, but for the most part discussion of those recommendations is postponed to the substantive chapters that follow. See Table 2.1 for the budget of the Library of Congress.

Office of the Librarian

The Office of the Librarian is the administrative branch of the Library of Congress and had 728 employees as of September 30, 1999, including 201 employees in the Information Technology Services (ITS) Directorate.8 This office has overall management responsibility for the Library and includes staff functions such as public affairs and congressional relations. Most of the employees within the Office of the Librarian, however, work in centralized services such as Human Resources Services, Security, Financial Services, or ITS, which fall under the rubric “enabling infrastructure” (see Figure 2.2). The systems and strategies of these services have important effects on the entire institution.9

Library Services

Library Services is the largest service unit of the Library of Congress, with 2,304 employees in September 1999. Its specific charge is to develop and manage “the Library’s universal collections, which document the history and further the creativity of the American people, and which record and contribute to the advancement of civilization and knowledge throughout the world.” The audiences served are the following: “Congress, libraries and librarians, scholars, educators, the general public, the

8  

The source for the number of employees—in Library Services and in the other units of LC—is the Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1999.

9  

ITS and some other units of the Office of the Librarian are discussed in greater detail in Chapters 7 and 8. The Office of the Librarian is mentioned here for purposes of comparison with the other major offices of the Library.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

FIGURE 2.1 Organizational structure of the Library of Congress.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

FIGURE 2.2 Enabling infrastructure of the Library of Congress.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

FIGURE 2.3 Library Services and its directorates.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

TABLE 2.1 Net Costs by Program Area at the Library of Congress (dollars)

Program Area

Cost

Revenue

Net Cost

Library Services

239,046,427

4,868,749

234,177,678

Law Library

14,562,531

0

14,562,531

Copyright Office

48,039,321

18,218,923

29,820,398

Congressional Research Service

96,017,808

0

96,017,808

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicappeda

46,397,702

0

46,397,702

Reimbursable fundsb

53,661,537

47,897,166

5,764,371

Revolving fundsc

15,646,988

6,281,721

9,365,267

Miscellaneous

 

 

35

Net cost of operations

 

 

436,105,790

SOURCE: Adapted from the Financial Statements for Fiscal 1999, Library of Congress, March 2000, p. 2-2.

aAlthough the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLSBPH) is a unit of Library Services, it receives a separate appropriation from Congress.

bThe Library manages the Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK) and the Federal Research Division, which account for the major portion of the reimbursable revenues. In addition, LC provides accounting services for four legislative agencies under cross-servicing agreements. The net program costs for the Library’s reimbursable funds are nearly zero when intra-Library net revenues of $4.3 million are included and adjustments of $1.5 million are excluded.

cUnder the authority of 2 U.S.C. 160, the Library operates 11 gift revolving fund activities to provide a variety of services.

blind and physically handicapped, and internal clients.”10 The Library fulfills this mandate by providing access to its collection of 26 million volumes, nearly 1 million serials, and many items in other formats. It does this in more than 20 reading rooms in Washington, D.C., alone, as well as through interlibrary loans and Internet access. Not only does Library Services provide access to books, but it also supports the creation and distribution of information about books in direct ways—through the

10  

“Information Technology Beyond the Year 2000,” presented by LC staff at the committee’s first plenary meeting on February 18, 1999.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

distribution of catalog materials—and in indirect ways, through initiatives like the Center for the Book and its state affiliates.11

One of the most significant features of Library Services from the point of view of information technology is the organization of the Public Service Collections—those divisions organized around the physical form of collections (e.g., the Geography and Map, Prints and Photographs, and Manuscript Divisions), around content centers (e.g., the Humanities and Social Sciences Division and the Music Division), or around functions (e.g., the Loan and the Collections Management Divisions). Figure 2.3 shows the organization of Library Services.

As early as 1902, Library Services began serving its second audience—libraries and librarians—by distributing catalog materials to alleviate the burden of every library having to catalog the same item in more or less the same way. For nearly two-thirds of the twentieth century, this was done through a system of cards and printed volumes providing actual catalog records or references such as LC subject headings. Today, it is largely done electronically, either through the medium of shared resources distributed directly or through services such as OCLC and the Research Libraries Information Network, the services offered to publishers that facilitate cataloging, and the internal Integrated Library System (ILS) of the Library of Congress. The history of these three functions is intertwined.

In 1958, the Committee on Mechanized Information Retrieval began to lay the foundation for the ILS, which was eventually installed in October 1999.12 An outgrowth of that committee’s work was the development

11  

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, created by Public Law 95-129 in 1977, was established to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries and to encourage the study of books and print culture. Within the Library of Congress, the center is a focal point for celebrating the legacy of books and the printed word. Outside the Library, the center works closely with other organizations to foster understanding of the vital role of books, reading, libraries, and literacy in society. A partnership between the government and the private sector, the center depends primarily on tax-deductible contributions from corporations and individuals to support its overall program of projects, publications, and events of interest to both the general public and scholars. See <http://lcweb.loc.gov/loc/cfbook/ctr-bro.html>.

12  

The ILS represents a significant step toward resolving the differences among the various systems developed in the Library over the years. The ILS, an off-the-shelf system developed by Endeavor Information Systems, Inc., of Des Plaines, Illinois, finally integrates many of the major component systems of the Library into one application. It supports standard operations such as acquisitions, cataloging, inventory and serials control, circulation, and the online public access catalog. In general, integrated library systems simplify staff tasks, thereby enhancing efficiency, and centralize records, thereby improving collection control and customer service. See Chapter 8 for a detailed discussion of the ILS.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

in the 1960s of the MARC format. Together with the AACR cataloging rules that specify which of the elements defined in MARC are to be used for cataloging particular formats, the basic structure of the electronic catalog record was set. MARC records have been readily and consistently distributed to libraries since the late 1960s through the Cataloging Distribution Service (CDS), either directly from the Library of Congress or indirectly through OCLC, the Research Libraries Group, and other large library database managers.

In 1971, the Cataloging in Publication (CIP) program was established to allow publishers to create prepublication catalog records for books that might be expected to be widely distributed. CIP records form a part of the core catalog data distributed through CDS, and they accelerate the dissemination of cataloging data for new U.S. publications, offering a savings in the cost of cataloging and expediting the creation of catalog records. In 1996, the process was expanded to allow electronic transmission of the CIP information from the publisher through the Electronic Cataloging in Publication (ECIP) program.

MARC records have become the norm in library cataloging. Their adoption for use in library systems has been somewhat slower. The Library’s first efforts to use electronic records for access during the 1970s led to the Subject-Content-Oriented Retriever for Processing Information Online (SCORPIO) system and the Multiple Use MARC System (MUMS), which provided search, retrieval, and display components. In 1975, the first computer terminal was installed in the main reading room for the use of patrons. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Library moved to more powerful computers and added communications, but SCORPIO and MUMS continued to be the core of its catalog until the installation of the ILS in October 1999. The ACCESS system was implemented in 1991, allowing users to get into SCORPIO and MUMS more easily via a graphical user interface (MS-Windows). The Library of Congress Information System (LOCIS) provided another way of accessing SCORPIO and MUMS in 1993 over the Internet.13

Circulation transactions were maintained manually through the 1960s. An attempt to develop an in-house circulation system in the 1970s was abandoned for an interim system borrowed from the National Library of Medicine. In 1988, a circulation control facility (CCF) and an acquisitions module, ACQUIRE, were implemented. Card-based systems for managing the shelf lists and serials check-in have been maintained until the present, along with bound ledgers for the shelf list covering the period before 1940.

13  

Preparing for the 21st Century: Information Technology at the Library of Congress in the 1990s and Beyond, by Audrey Fischer, undated.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

In 1997 plans were made to move to an integrated library system. The product selected was Voyager, developed by Endeavor Information Systems, and it was installed in 1999. All of the primary legacy electronic systems—SCORPIO, MUMS, CCF, and ACQUIRE—have been resolved into the ILS, and in January 2000, they were taken off-line. The shelf list and serials check-in will be converted from their current manual systems into the ILS structure over the next 5 to 10 years.14

Geography and Map Division

The Geography and Map Division collects maps, atlases, globes, and CD-ROMs associated with maps and mapping. The division has not yet begun to collect significant numbers of geographical databases or mapping software, although it has been active in deploying tools and cataloging standards for maps. Currently, no robust structure for collecting such nontraditional formats exists in the Library, and this division is no exception.15 The division has taken the lead in developing the standards to be used within the National Digital Library Program for delivering maps. It is also working with CRS to develop the division’s geographical information systems (GISs) resources. The Library has created digital surrogates (with unique cataloged records)16 for 3,65917 of the 4.5 million items in the collection, including maps related to the Civil War, railroads in the United States, and panoramic maps of American cities. This division felt keenly the need for more powerful workstations, faster networks, and better access to tools for imaging and for managing the very large images required for making surrogates. This need poses another technical challenge.

The division seems to believe that cataloging with MARC formats makes it sufficiently active in the area of geographic collections management. The committee notes, however, that the area has grown and changed remarkably with the introduction of the computer and with the development of sophisticated GISs. This means that although the division has performed its traditional tasks well, it has fallen behind the cut-

14  

The sheer size of the pre-1981 official catalog—a bank of hundreds of cabinets filled with index cards extending what seems to be the whole width of the building—illustrates the challenge of managing legacy systems, to say nothing of the huge amounts of material.

15  

Here, as elsewhere, it can be the case that LC’s uniqueness makes it dangerous for LC to wait for others to innovate. However, if LC is the only place, or one of the few places, where innovation might occur, conservatism in innovation is out of place.

16  

By “digital surrogate” the committee means, here and elsewhere, a digital representation of the analog artifact, intended to be not only a representation, but also an item with value and utility in itself. Thus a digital surrogate of a map may (because it can be enlarged, cropped, and compared) offer usefulness not present in the original.

17  

Based on information provided by LC to the committee in July 2000.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

ting-edge institutions. There certainly has been no pressure from other LC units for the division to provide anything but MARC-format records for this collection, and the relatively simple demands for metadata placed on it by the NDLP have not pushed the Geography and Map Division further into evolving areas such as those addressed by the Open GIS Consortium.18

Manuscript Division

The Manuscript Division collects archival and manuscript material of national significance. It has the papers of 23 presidents, several U.S. Supreme Court justices, and prominent writers, inventors, and intellectuals, as well as the archives of nationally significant organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Urban League.19 The division has about 12,000 collections, which range in size from a few documents to thousands of boxes of documents. Finding aids (descriptions of collections with listings of the contents of boxes and folders) exist for about 2,000 of the collections, and there are item-level indexes for presidential papers; some 140 of the division’s finding aids are online. About 10 percent of the collections have been microfilmed. Very few individual items have been given digital surrogates. NDLP has sampled items from the division (e.g., selected pages from Alexander Graham Bell’s papers and portions of Longfellow’s manuscripts) and digitized exemplary items. The division has been reluctant to digitize collections, partly because its client researchers generally want more than just a limited selection of materials. The Manuscript Division also has a large backlog of unprocessed collections. The staff considers preparing these collections for use by researchers to have a higher priority than digitization.20

18  

See <http://www.opengis.org> for information about the Open GIS Consortium.

19  

The Library of Congress collects the papers of private citizens and organizations. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is responsible for collecting historically significant records of the federal government. Presidential papers in the Library of Congress begin with those of George Washington and include most of the presidents through the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century. Then, beginning with President Hoover, twentieth-century presidents established private presidential libraries to house their papers. The presidential libraries are administered by NARA, and since 1981 presidents have been required to deposit the official records of their presidency in a presidential library.

20  

In general, the demands of managing physical materials and of providing access—digital or otherwise—to them are more acutely at odds in manuscript collections than other parts of libraries. The Library of Congress is no different in this regard. Microfilm has made it possible for whole collections to be quickly and easily captured (and for researchers, whole collections are usually the most important) rather than just a few highlights, which is the extent to which digitization can realistically go at this date.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

While initiatives such as that for encoded archival description (EAD)21 provide a standard mechanism for sharing archival finding aids online, the division is only beginning to experiment. Like so many LC units, this division is set up to continue to receive traditional materials. There are no structures for, and little thought has been given to, cataloging, storing, managing, or offering access to a collection that arrives as a set of computer files, e-mails, and other digital materials. Even a mixed collection containing some traditional material and some electronic material cannot be easily accommodated with the existing tools.22

Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division

The collections of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division include roughly 1,000,000 audio recordings and 200,000 cans of film. The limited applicability of MARC for cataloging the materials of this division led to the development of specialized cataloging and collections management tools, so these collections as cataloged were not part of the initial ILS installation.

Most of the materials in these collections are still under copyright, which restricts LC’s ability to create digital surrogates, but such digital surrogates are important for preservation purposes. Some material—especially early motion picture footage—has accordingly been digitized and showcased in the National Digital Library (NDL). The creation of the National Audio-Visual Conservation Center at Culpeper, Virginia, along with thoughts of distributing assets to multiple non-LC locations (e.g., a jazz museum in Harlem), has helped to generate ideas about distribution of digital collections as a way to preserve originals in remote storage facilities while still serving the needs of the public.

There is no systematic plan for collecting content developed exclusively for distribution on the Internet (e.g., MP3 format music or streaming video), and, like the Manuscript Division, the Motion Picture, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division has no plan for housing such digital content.

21  

See Chapter 5 for a discussion of EAD.

22  

The Library of Congress could join forces with other interested parties (e.g., NARA) to find ways of dealing with issues of this sort. This theme—LC reaching out to others facing comparable challenges with respect to digital information—is discussed at length in Chapter 6 and throughout the report.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Prints and Photographs Division

The Prints and Photographs Division has had a long-standing program for creating digital surrogates for preservation and access. Currently, approximately 575,000 images (out of a collection of 13.5 million) are available digitally, and 445,000 of these are within the scope of NDLP. They are accessible through the Prints and Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC), a custom cataloging system that was developed by the division to collect and distribute such information.

The division does not yet collect images that are created as digital works.23 There are no structures in place for capturing, storing, or managing such materials. To the committee’s knowledge, there has not yet been any consideration of the implications for the future of the MARC format of its inadequacy for dealing with this important class of library materials.

Serial and Government Publications Division

The collections of the Serial and Government Publications Division include 70,000 periodicals and 1,400 newspapers along with publications of the federal government (including those received as a federal depository library). Access to electronic versions of newspapers and to various electronic journals has been provided via links to archives of such material (e.g., The Christian Science Monitor). The division provides access to online journals and newspapers in its reading room, but only for so long as the publisher keeps the material online. It has not begun to collect or allow access to digital-only serials or digital forms of serials in any significant sense. Microfilm and microfiche versions continue to be collected because they are considered the “best edition” for long-term preservation and access. The division has had little involvement with NDLP, partly because of copyright issues with private-sector publishers and partly because of technical problems. NDLP and the other divisions of LC have

23  

In this division as in others, the fact that more and more born-digital objects are being created that are analogous to physical artifacts suggests either expanding the scope of the divisions or creating another division. One could argue for either approach. Just because a digital image might be published like a print or photograph (in fact, it might be nearly indistinguishable in its published form from either a print or a photograph) may not mean that it is within the purview of the Prints and Photographs Division. We tend to classify digital materials by the analog forms they are realized in rather than by their native digital forms. This may not be the best way to do it. Certainly, having a division for collecting digital materials—no matter what analog forms of presentation they take or imitate—would address some of the knottier technical issues that must now be solved by the various divisions where this content would otherwise be kept.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

developed appropriate ways of presenting digital content (zoomable maps, pagination for multipage items, etc.), but no satisfactory way of presenting materials such as newspapers has been developed. Implementation of the ILS will continue to preoccupy this division, for the serials check-in list is still managed as a manual file. Automating this important function would be an important first step to making the holdings more widely accessible.

National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped

The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLSBPH—NLS, for short) was established in 1931 by an act of Congress to serve the particular needs of blind and physically handicapped people who cannot use ordinary printed texts. The NLS, which has 131 employees,24 offers free Braille and recorded materials to 780,000 individuals each year, most of whom (90 percent) are blind. The emphasis is on the production and distribution of general or popular publications rather than scholarly works. Each year approximately 2,000 titles in various formats are produced by NLS, and through a network of 85 regional offices, NLS circulated 23 million items in a recent year. Special provisions in the copyright law allow the NLS to select, produce, and distribute these materials. NLS produces recorded materials in 86 languages for distribution to handicapped patrons in their native languages. In addition, NLS designs and oversees the manufacture and servicing of the specialized equipment that is used to play back the audio recordings.

NLS has been largely self-contained with respect to developing and using information technologies (such as the circulation system and specialized databases for producing print or audio resources and for tracking loaner equipment and borrower preferences). It anticipates integrating its catalog and online retrieval system into ILS. NLS has throughout its history been involved in the specification and deployment of technology related to audio recording, audio playback equipment, production of recorded materials, and shipping of recordings. The changing population of blind users influences the technical solutions. For example, in 1945 a disproportionately large segment of the target population were veterans of the Second World War; today the largest segment is elderly individuals who are losing their sight and acquiring other infirmities.

Digital technology offers powerful new opportunities for extending the service, but there are special challenges associated with the dissemination media. The existing audio system depends on the use of a non-

24  

As of September 30, 1999, from the Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress, 1999.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

standard tape format played on special hardware, a mechanism that encourages publishers to allow recording and disseminating their works without fear that the tapes will be reproduced without authorization and used beyond the intended audience. The creation of a similar digital delivery channel for the blind will raise formidable technical and—more important—social issues. NLS has considered various strategies for using digital technology and has been actively participating in the creation of a National Information Standards Organization (NISO) standard to ensure compatibility among the several systems under development. The timetable, file specification, and interface characteristics of a playback device for compressed digital audio are still being developed.25

A Web-based delivery of audio files from a digital library supported by improved voice synthesizers capable of turning digital text into functional audio without the expense of recording and distributing a “performance” of a given book can be envisioned, although there are some obstacles to achieving such a vision:26

  • Publishers’ reluctance to allow the uncontrolled dissemination of text in such forms,

  • Physical difficulties involved in the use of current and next-generation Web-based systems for the visually handicapped, and

  • Economic difficulties associated with ensuring access to suitable technology by a population whose members would tend to be on the disadvantaged side of the “digital divide.”

Other Divisions

Library Services is a large and complex organization that the committee could not fully explore. For example, the committee was able to visit only briefly the African and Middle Eastern Division, Asian Division, European Division, Hispanic Division, and the Office of Scholarly Programs. Other units, such as the Science, Technology, and Business Division, the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, and the Music Divi-

25  

The Web site at <http://www.niso.org/commitaq.html> indicates that NLS staff are leading the Task Force on a Digital Talking Book, which includes manufacturers of hardware devices and software tools as well as many individuals from organizations serving blind people. The standard will be applicable to all types of users. The challenges for NLS include meeting the needs of the severely disabled and the elderly population, as well as making the transition in hardware and distribution of audio files.

26  

Despite the challenges, the NLS is making some progress on digital initiatives. See, for example, “Library of Congress Launches Web-Braille on the Internet for Blind and Visually Impaired Library Users,” at <www.loc.gov/nls/nls-wb.html>.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

sion, were studied through documentation provided by the Library or obtained through published sources.

Law Library

The primary function of the Law Library is to “serve as the foreign, comparative, and international law research arm of the U.S. Congress, the Judiciary, and Executive agencies.”27 The Law Library ensures that a staff member is physically present in the Law Library whenever Congress is in session in case there is a need to look something up.28 The Law Library is divided into two directorates with a total of 97 employees (as of September 30, 1999). The Services Directorate provides on-site access to a range of materials relating to foreign law and to a comprehensive collection of U.S. bills and associated materials, including the Congressional Record and the publications that preceded it. The reference collection in the reading room numbers 65,000 volumes, and the entire collection contains roughly 2.3 million items. More than half the items are in languages other than English, in accordance with the mandate to collect primary legal material from around the world. The Legal Research Directorate provides research into foreign, comparative, and international law for members of Congress and (as resources permit) to other governmental bodies and the general public as well.

Starting in 1902, the Law Library developed strategies for managing and indexing its complex materials. The index of federal statutes, which started as a Law Library project but eventually became a responsibility of CRS, and comparable indexes of international collections (most notably the Latin American indexes that have been maintained since the 1950s) have served as the basis for the Law Library’s current initiatives in technology, including development of the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN).

Public access to U.S. legislation has been achieved through the THOMAS system. The materials entered into THOMAS, however, are within the purview of the Law Library, which maintains the most complete set of federal and state legislative materials in any one place. The congressional materials run from 1774; the complete set of U.S. Supreme Court records runs from 1832.

27  

“Services of the Law Library of Congress,” brochure dated December 1996.

28  

From outside the Law Library, this requirement, which grew from an incident in the nineteenth century when the Law Library was housed in the Capitol and someone wanted a publication after it had closed, has the charm of tradition. From within, given the reality that meeting twenty-first-century information needs seldom requires physical access to the Madison Building by members after hours, it is a burden on a staff already overtaxed.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

The challenge of providing access to foreign legislative materials led the Law Library to establish GLIN, for which it gathers materials in their native languages. To search this corpus effectively requires either (1) a structure for abstracting into English the contents of each document or (2) multilingual search engines. Since the latter solution, the technological one, is not viable in even the limited areas where it has been tested, the choice has been to abstract. To do this requires adding staff to do the abstracting or creating structures to capture abstracts from the participating countries. This abstracting requires training and a considerable amount of oversight by Law Library staff. The comparative ease of getting THOMAS up and running has not been possible with GLIN.

Because GLIN has turned out to be so complex and because much of the software that was being imagined for it either did not exist in off-the-shelf form or could not be easily adapted to the needs of GLIN, the Law Library had to partner and raise funds to realize what has been developed so far. The World Bank has emerged as a major sponsor, so the main participating countries are developing nations such as Albania and Brazil. (GLIN’s managers have also decided, sensibly, to defer work on the laws of more developed countries, on the assumption that those countries will have the means and the will to create similar resources for themselves, with GLIN helping to establish standards and interoperability.) Given the difficulties and constraints, the Law Library has made good progress in transferring the concepts underlying the THOMAS system to international law.

GLIN would be far more valuable if it had a higher priority and if it were autonomously funded—in which case it could select for itself the countries with which it deals and could work with the rest of the Library to build the standards and technology needed to do a complex job in the most appropriate way. For example, GLIN would benefit from LC investments in foreign language text representation, editing, search, and retrieval. GLIN’s dependence on external funding marginalizes its potential.29

In other areas, the Law Library has been an active partner in advancing technology. For example, the installation of the ILS by Library Services was received with enthusiasm by the Law Library staff, who expect it will make their collection easy to manage.

The Law Library took advantage of the NDL to digitize a considerable amount of its early holdings. One of the largest projects in the NDL is from the Law Library, namely, the Century of Lawmaking project, which includes many of the popular documents relating to the founding

29  

Depending too heavily on donors or sponsors to select program focus or determine technology selections is a theme that will be revisited in subsequent chapters.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

of America, as well as complete photo reproductions of large portions of the publications that were predecessors of the Congressional Record.

Copyright Office

The Copyright Office had 505 employees as of September 30, 1999. Like the Law Library, it operates under mandates that were based on an earlier set of circumstances. While the letter of the law that moves the Copyright Office forward may be out of date, its spirit is not. The basic outlines of copyright were created for a bibliocentric world that had a manageable, if diffuse, number of works and number of creators. Scalability was not a primary concern when the fundamental tenets were outlined, and the problems of identifying rightful copyright holders had to do with the complexities of communicating over large areas with a limited set of tools rather than with handling great numbers of things about which a great deal can be known using sophisticated tools. When the copyright system under which our country continues to operate was enacted, a physical certificate (like a diploma or a stock certificate or a banknote) was typically the tangible way to present a verifiable status (without having to resort to validation in each instance). A small number of books and other materials were being copyrighted, and one of the biggest challenges the Copyright Office had to face was the size of the country and the difficulty of administering something as regional or even local as publishing was in the 1870s. In the year 2000, we have many ways of verifying authenticity (and while certificates of various kinds have the power of law, they are seldom used for verification). The number of books and other items copyrighted has risen considerably, and contemporary shipping and communication make the most out-of-the-way corners of the country part of a national (and even global) system. The requirement that each work be examined physically and that a certificate proving the copyright be created and distributed and the idea that making a copy of the copyright application is critical in the process may be troubling to the outsider, but those steps are part of the process that has governed copyright for the last 125 years.

For all works published in the United States, two copies must be deposited according to the law.30 Registration is an optional procedure

30  

While there can be a question of whether something is “published” or not in the analog world, the question of whether a digital work is published or not can be even more difficult to answer; for a discussion of considerations in what constitutes publication, see The Digital Dilemma: Intellectual Property in the Information Age, by the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000).

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

that copyright holders can pursue to strengthen legal assertion for both published and unpublished works. To register a published work, one must submit two copies (which also satisfies the mandatory deposit requirement). To register unpublished works, one copy is sufficient. Each submission must be examined in the Copyright Office to determine whether it is eligible for copyright protection. Selection officers from the Law Library and Library Services review published materials and select those that meet the criteria for inclusion in the Library’s permanent collection. The Copyright Office is obliged by regulation to retain unselected published works for 5 years. It retains unpublished work for 70 years after the author’s death.

The Copyright Office operates largely separately from the rest of the Library. There is, however, a critical link between the Copyright Office and Library Services (and the Law Library to a lesser extent): the majority of materials obtained for LC’s collections are received from the Copyright Office. In the world of physical artifacts, it is not a problem that the respective organizations are loosely coupled. Selectors can physically sort through the materials. In the digital world, especially with born-digital content, a more coordinated, specified interface will be needed to ensure that digital materials can be read and tracked in a reasonable way.

Because of the large numbers of works it must deal with (the office processes more than 600,000 claims each year), because of the examination and retention requirements, and because it must be able to verify that on a particular date a particular object was deposited or registered or both, the information systems maintained by the Copyright Office are necessarily management and cataloging tools. Until 1978, a copyright card catalog was used to record every item registered. Since 1978, the Copyright Office Publication and Interactive Cataloging System (COPICS) has been used to record all registered works, as well as transfers and assignments of rights submitted for recordation by copyright owners. It uses a set of MARC-like elements to catalog each entry, and copyright catalogers do not follow generally accepted cataloging rules. For internal management, the Copyright Office In-Process System (COINS) tracks applications for registration and other work requests within the Copyright Office and includes all fiscal processing of fees and maintenance of deposit accounts for high-volume remitters. Both systems have been upgraded over the years, and COINS is to be substantially revised in the near future. The Copyright Office uses an imaging system to facilitate preservation of the applications for copyright registration as well as the assignment and transfer documents. The system also produces the certificates of copyright registration and makes the applications and documents available for viewing by the public. ITS developed the imaging system in 1994 using the same proprietary software used for the CRS imaging sys-

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

tem. This system is slated for replacement in 2001. Since 1993, the Copyright Office has been developing (in a project with the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, discussed in Chapter 3) the Copyright Electronic Recordation and Deposit System (CORDS) to accept deposits and registration of digital materials.

None of the procedures that constitute the registration process is well integrated with the others. Tools were built to deal only with parts of problems, the relentless flow of material continues to grow, the steps in the copyright process are idiosyncratic, and the works that arrive in the Copyright Office offer the examiners multiple complexities and ambiguities. None of these parameters is likely to change very rapidly. Digital works will add layers of complexity; a single tangible, created entity in the age of digital content that changes with additions to databases or that is intentionally fugitive or that allows regular or continuous updating is not consistent with the current procedure for delineating a copyrightable object.

Congressional Research Service

The Congressional Research Service is responsible for providing Congress with “comprehensive and reliable research, analysis and information services that are timely, objective, non-partisan, and confidential” through its 720 employees (as of September 30, 1999). It is the arm of LC that most nearly and exclusively performs the original function of LC, the support of Congress and its legislative needs. It has had a history of more or less close association with the rest of the Library, but there are numerous points of disjunction. For example, the staff of CRS make much less use of LC collections than the committee had expected, and CRS employees have their own union, quite separate in identity and organization from the unions to which other Library staff belong.31

The Congressional Research Service is organized into six research areas: American law; domestic social policy; foreign affairs, defense, and trade; government and finance; information research; and resources, science, and industry. In addition, of the five staff offices in CRS, Information Resources Management handles legislative information, including the Legislative Information System (LIS) (see Box 2.1), and Research Operations manages technology application development, imaging, and infrastructure for CRS.32

31  

CRS staff even have business cards with a design distinctly different from that of other LC staff business cards.

32  

Special Announcement 99-4, available online at <http://lcweb.loc.gov/staff/ogc/sa/sa99-4.html>.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

BOX 2.1
The Legislative Information System

As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich directed the Library of Congress (LC) to develop a system for making legislative information available to the public through the Internet by January 1995. The Library did this using existing data and systems and creating a Web interface with a new search engine. Congress (through appropriations language) also requested that LC conduct a study in 1995 of the duplication of legislative systems across all legislative branch agencies. The study found considerable duplication, whereupon Congress asked LC to prepare a plan for a new system to serve as Congress’s primary legislative information system (LIS). The LIS was to be developed and maintained collaboratively by all the offices and legislative support agencies that serve the Congress. The Library and the Congressional Research Service were given responsibility for coordinating the retrieval component of this effort among all congressional offices (House, Senate, LC, Government Printing Office, Congressional Budget Office, General Accounting Office) and for making the information accessible. The result has been an ongoing reengineering of the collection, storage, and retrieval of legislative information across Capitol Hill, beginning with the clerks on the chamber floors and in the legislative counsels who draft the bills and extending through retrieval of the information through either the LIS (for members and staff of the Congress) or THOMAS (for the public). As a result of these efforts, there is now one coordinated, distributed system that provides legislative information to Congress and the public. Both the House and Senate retired their legacy retrieval systems and provide data directly to the LIS. This was one of the most remarkable successes LC has had in digital information management systems. Some of that success reflected the nature of the materials (legal texts are “flat” and structured at the same time) and some reflected the ability of the organization to react to significant outside pressure with a nimbleness and agility that are not seen in day-to-day life at LC.

CRS produces primarily two kinds of products:

  • Material distributed broadly throughout the Congress, including issue briefs that require regular updates and reports that were formerly static documents but increasingly are updated periodically. All issue briefs and a growing number of the reports are available to Congress via the CRS Web site.

  • Confidential work, which is guided by the principle that clients own the answers as well as the questions. Such work necessitates tracking multiple “original” works on similar or identical topics.33

33  

Since members of Congress are apt to use the results of this type of research in public statements, one can imagine that it is important that the results seem original. Simply distributing the same report with the same language and examples might create some embarrassing situations.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

In FY99, CRS responded to almost 546,000 congressional requests, produced roughly 1,000 new CRS reports and issue briefs, and created over 1,700 custom confidential memoranda.

CRS benefits from a clear sense of mission and of customer identity. Although members of Congress and congressional staff can and do ask about an amazing variety of subjects, the CRS staff know from whom the questions will come, and the protocol for providing answers is comparatively clear. In some ways, CRS resembles a remarkably large staff of reference librarians, answering sophisticated inquiries in immense detail and with great professionalism; in others, it resembles a university faculty, performing original research on issues of public policy. Members of Congress and their staffs are generally pleased with the service received.

Because CRS requires quick access to information, it manages its own digesting services, it considers electronic forms as the best edition for its business, and it has an interest in such things as geographical information systems. In some ways, its agenda pushes other parts of the Library. The Geography and Map Division will benefit from its partnership with CRS, which wants the kind of GIS that Geography and Map has been wanting. In other ways, however, its special needs set it apart. Both CRS and the Law Library have research arms that prepare reports for their clients, but CRS requires a degree of confidentiality that makes it inappropriate even to share tracking systems for research. CRS might well be a client for newly acquired digital materials in the Copyright Office, except that the pace of the Copyright Office and the rate at which its materials find their way into the Library’s collection are generally too slow for CRS. Accordingly, CRS has been an early adopter of technology but has often done so independently of the rest of LC.

CRS has its own cataloging and information retrieval system—Star ILS—that it intends to integrate into the new Voyager ILS. It has the Public Policy Literature File, an online abstracting system available to Congress and CRS staff. The Inquiry Status Information System (ISIS), introduced in 1978 and upgraded in 1996, manages requests received from Congress and tracks their status as the work is performed. The congressional mandate to provide access to large bodies of text material—bills, the Congressional Record, and related materials—along with the requirement to reduce duplication of effort among congressional units led to the implementation of the LIS and THOMAS systems, which use a natural language query engine that gives online access to these legislative materials in a convenient and timely way. LIS and THOMAS have proven to be two of the most effective of LC’s forays into the distribution of online materials. They were implemented very shortly after the mandate and have continued to function—with occasional enhancements and regular expansion—very effectively. CRS maintains an active Web site and

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

has an interest in multimedia distribution, maintaining secure networks, increasing bandwidth, and serving its audience better.

National Digital Library Program

Between 1990 and 1994, the Library experimented with a pilot project called the American Memory Project to make digital surrogates of key documents held by the Library. Out of that project, the National Digital Library Program was born. The NDLP had more than 100 employees as of April 1999 and an annual budget of $12 million. Its goal is to digitize 5 million items within 5 years.34 The NDLP has made astute use of the tremendous popular appeal of the documents in its collection to garner private support. It aims to provide materials for educational purposes for children from kindergarten through high school—audiences that have hitherto been largely outside the focus of the Library (see Box 2.2). To meet this challenge, the NDLP has depended on a mix of LC staff and contractors. As a project-based program, the NDLP is not required to provide the long-term service functions that LC must normally provide.

Apart from working to achieve its immediate goals, the NDLP has worked to bring in outside sources of support and content. Ameritech has supported creating collections that are physically located at other institutions but intellectually integrated with NDLP resources at LC. The Mellon Foundation is seeking to make available digital content that does not reside at LC. Digital materials created by projects such as the Making of America (Cornell University and the University of Michigan) are under consideration for inclusion. The NDLP has a general vision but no formal, central plan for selecting materials or creating links between various materials. For some collecting areas, having digital surrogates available is a benefit—in the Prints and Photographs or Geography and Map Divisions, for instance. In others, the capability would be apt to provide access to materials otherwise difficult to see on account of access restrictions or concerns for preservation—the materials from the Law Library, for instance. For still other areas, such as the Manuscript Division, having digital surrogates provides exposure but in and of itself does not yet benefit users.

Thompson Technology is providing repository software for the NDLP with an Oracle database system, a search engine, and tools for managing metadata. The Library’s Information Technology Services Directorate has been involved in an advisory capacity in this development but has not

34  

An “item” in the NDLP collection is not equivalent to an item in LC’s collections. Instead, it is a digital image, and one Web page may contain one or more digital images.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

BOX 2.2
Opportunities to Expand the Library’s Audiences

The advent of digital information and networks offers substantial opportunities for making the Library of Congress (LC) more visible and valuable to a wider audience. There is great virtue in using technology to extend the accessibility of the Library’s rich resources beyond Capitol Hill. Clearly, new audiences such as the K-12 community also offer new opportunities for partnerships and funding. At the time this report was being prepared, a $25 million advertising campaign contributed by the Ad Council of America was under way to expand the audience.

At the same time, however, reaching out to new audiences poses challenges. For example, reaching a significant portion of the K-12 community directly (i.e., developing resources that are to be used by students and teachers directly) is difficult, especially for an organization that does not traditionally possess such expertise. Partnerships with intermediaries who have experience working with this community may be a more effective approach; in the case of the National Digital Library Program, such intermediaries include public and school libraries and publishers that serve this community. Such a strategy would allow LC to leverage its investments in digitization by having an impact on a much broader segment of society than if it had reached out to students and teachers directly. An additional benefit is that the packaging and interpretation of digital resources to be used for teaching would be developed primarily by intermediaries experienced in making such judgments, thereby avoiding criticism for having the federal government interpret history for schoolchildren or use public resources to compete with the private sector (i.e., educational publishers). In the spring of 2000, the America’s Library Web site (<http://www.americaslibrary.gov>) began addressing a school-age audience even more explicitly.

played a leadership role here and has certainly not played the role of application developer. Guidelines for developing particular media have been created as each media type is tackled. The procedure has been to get the program working and to be successful, but as the program develops, more planning will have to be done. The NDLP has been especially valuable to the Library in the areas of creating (converting from analog to digital) and managing digital materials. Because none of the collecting arms of the LC have much in the way of structures for gathering digital materials, the NDLP has set itself the daunting task of managing the 5 million items once they are digitized. This is being done in an open fashion so that the collecting arms can make use of links to that imagery. So far, however, the Geography and Map Division seems to be the primary division taking advantage of this opportunity; the committee hopes that the ILS and other systems (e.g., the Prints and Photographs cataloging system) will link to this imagery at some point. While the bulk of the materials being accumulated under the umbrella of the NDLP are still

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

images, the NDLP has tackled issues having to do with formats for delivering materials, longevity of approaches, and the like. Though not widely published and certainly not widely emulated within LC, the basic methods for creating each type of surrogate—still images, sound recordings, audio recordings, and maps—have been carried out in a thoughtful and developmental way. These methods should be examined for their applicability to other LC activities and publicized more assertively in the larger community.

The NDLP and the Library need to do much more work in developing metadata beyond MARC formats. This would allow the metadata to be readily communicated as formats and managed over time. Much of the captioning for imagery seems to be original captioning, written for particular audiences. These captions live within the structure of the NDL but have no direct bearing on the production data stored as a part of the catalog records. Similarly, attendant data such as information on ways of managing subjects, chronology, place names, and so on need to be pursued in a clearly replicable way. The point may seem to be a fine one, but in some respects the management and delivery of narrative content constitute the logical next step after the development of the MARC format for management and delivery of formatted content. The Library has an opportunity to play a leadership role in examining the complex relationship between narrative materials that are acceptable for public access and the formal content of the catalog. The committee believes very strongly that LC should participate in the dialogs that are springing up in this area of information management.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE: THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS IN 2010

The Library of Congress resembles many other established institutions in confronting the possibilities and challenges presented by information technology. The institution has thought carefully about its mission over the years and has a reasonable sense of where it wants to go, even though it is a somewhat loosely coupled organization. But implementing that mission at a time of rapid change in the fundamental technologies on which the institution relies requires that the LC’s sense of mission be even clearer and that the choices be understood well. This section summarizes what the committee sees as the particular challenges it believes need to be addressed.

It should go without saying that LC exists to support the information needs of the Congress. For the fulfillment of this fundamental mission, both the organization and technology are largely at hand, although change is constant. The Congressional Research Service is like a large and highly

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

specialized research department in a library that knows its customers very well indeed. Such a tight link between library and customer is unusual (tighter even than in universities and colleges), enviable, and a good source of guidance and direction for the CRS. The committee does not mean to minimize the challenges for CRS, but compared with those facing other departments of the Library, they are relatively straightforward.

It is Library Services—the unit of LC that most people think of as “the library”—that faces the most pointed questions. If it seeks to continue to accumulate a “comprehensive record of American history and creativity and a universal collection of human knowledge”35—in other words, a comprehensive collection of the nation’s creative output and at the same time a broadly inclusive collection of research materials brought from around the world—it must manage to deal with the old and the new together. The first implicit question—never clearly resolved—is how far LC really is a “national library” like those in other countries; the second consequent question, already being faced here and abroad, is what becomes of a national library in the digital age. The following parameters are the most relevant:

  • Old technologies continue to flourish. No decline in paper publication has yet been discerned. Existing systems for acquiring and managing that body of material must be maintained at current volumes or higher for the foreseeable future. LC is typical of great libraries in that it continues to need substantial space for physical collections even as funding agencies labor under the vague but mistaken assumption that digital publication will obviate such need.

  • Materials collected using old technologies now need to be made more accessible through the resourceful use of IT. The new ILS is an important step in this direction, but nowhere near the whole of LC’s collection is accessible that way. Electronic indexing and abstracting services, for example, are key tools for using print journals in a wide variety of fields. Business process redesign around the new ILS is an important step, but fresh consideration of other tools and how they may be made accessible (and to whom) is also needed.

  • Older materials cry out to be reviewed for digitization by projects similar to the National Digital Library. First, digitization can make materials of great interest accessible to far wider audiences than ever before. Second, for some older materials, digitization is the preservation strategy of choice (and for some older preservation media—for example, micro-

35  

From the LC mission statement.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

film—digitization is a next step in achieving real usefulness of materials).36 The NDLP is completing one milestone phase this year and looking to move ahead: the decisions made now will have important long-range impacts.

  • New materials published and made commercially available in digital media (with or without paper counterparts) need to be collected, made accessible, and preserved. This endeavor requires new forms of purchase and lease arrangements with publishers and new forms of access for readers and poses new questions about best edition and preservation. LC has just begun to address these questions.

  • A much larger body of material than ever before and even much larger than has been collected by LC is available on the World Wide Web and sometimes in digital libraries without having been “published” in the traditional sense. To what extent does this material fall under the collecting aegis of LC? There are, as well, the further questions of copyright registration, deposit, and selection for a continuing collection. It is here that issues of ownership, access, and responsibility for preservation arise. Here, LC has made less progress than have some other large institutions and—more to the point—it has failed to play the leadership role that it has the power to play in the library community as a whole. Through digital initiatives, major research libraries have demonstrated their awareness of these concerns and moved to act on them. LC has held back, and for the host of libraries without the resources or skills to address these complex issues, that lack of leadership is and will continue to be a problem.

To absorb the impact of the new while continuing to distinguish itself by discharging its traditional responsibilities, the Library will require keen management and new resources. But management will still be pressed to deliver the services demanded of LC without inordinate budgetary requests for new money. The committee sees several areas in which the impact of the new and the survival of old responsibilities will challenge LC most.

First, LC will need to think and rethink the audiences it chooses to address. Beyond Congress, there has traditionally been an overlapping set of publics defined first by access to the buildings of LC on Capitol Hill in Washington. Research scholars have had the strongest incentive to make their way to LC, but a wider public has been welcomed on remark-

36  

The committee believes that the subject of digital preservation is sufficiently important to warrant its own chapter (Chapter 4).

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

ably generous terms.37 But when access to the buildings is no longer a condition for the use of at least some of the collections, whom then should LC address? The issues of audience are most clearly drawn at present for the National Digital Library Program, but these issues will eventually be raised by all areas of library service mediated beyond the buildings of LC by information technology.

Second, the Library of Congress has a special function that most national libraries elsewhere do not have: responsibility for managing copyright registration as well as deposit.38 At present, copyright registration is a function that overlaps the deposit of printed materials, but within LC the systems used to support the Copyright Office and Library Services are very different. The physical materials are registered for copyright in one department of the Library and then are moved to a room where selectors extract the volumes likely to be added to the Library’s collections. At that point, a separate process of documentation and cataloging begins. Can the copyright registration and deposit processes be more closely integrated with acquisition, selection, cataloging, and preservation of materials for the Library’s collection?

Third, within LC, the Law Library risks being neglected because of its size and specialized function. Its distinctive feature is its support of research into the laws and judicial systems of other countries, although it does provide a wider range of traditional law library services. The Global Legal Information Network program is making progress in providing electronic access to international legal materials, but its impact has been limited by funding and personnel constraints. Are there ways to enhance that project’s impact and link it more closely to other LC functions? At the same time, before a GLIN service is developed that would compete with the private sector, careful consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate for the federal government to provide the proposed service.

So far, the committee has outlined problems that press on the Library from the point of view of service to its traditional users—readers and researchers from a variety of walks of life. But LC has another vitally important set of customers, ones it has served with distinction for many

37  

The mission statement lists the audience as Congress, the government, and the wider public, without further differentiation except to observe that digital media allow LC to reach a wider audience than before. Historically, the Library did not consider children to be a part of its clientele, and as of this writing, most on-site LC services may be accessed only by those 18 years of age and older (guided tours are an exception).

38  

In a number of other countries, this responsibility is carried out by organizations that are distinct from the national library.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

years: libraries. While LC’s function as a source of interlibrary loan materials has actually been relatively modest, it has led in setting standards and leading collaborative enterprises. LC’s history of consolidating and standardizing the cataloging of library materials has been distinguished, and it has played an important part in making librarianship here and abroad more economical and more effective. Now the challenge is to find appropriate ways to participate in the planning and execution of new standards and the creation of new infrastructure. The committee heard repeatedly from librarians around the world that LC must take the lead role in this area, but defining that role takes some thought and decision making in the new environment libraries face.

Organizing the services and infrastructure of LC to respond flexibly and efficiently to the new challenges is the last area this report addresses. The committee naturally offers some observations about specific technical directions, but at the same time it has studied closely the organizations and interactions that bring technology to the librarians and users. Technical questions are not solved well unless there are planning and implementation structures in place to optimize outcomes. At present there are both a central ITS Directorate and IT-specialist personnel in units throughout the Library. Do those units interact as well as they could and should? Are technology decisions made according to a broad strategic view of the future? Are technology decisions made in a way that is open and transparent to the library’s management as a whole? Do those decisions successfully anticipate need or only respond to it? The committee was particularly asked by LC’s senior managers to revisit a question raised by an earlier study: Does LC need to appoint explicitly a chief information officer to oversee management of its technology resources?39

It is important to emphasize at this point what should be obvious from the way in which the problem has been stated: namely, the committee judges the limitations and challenges LC faces to be structural and strategic, and they need to be thought of in that way. The committee did not approach this study by looking for things that are broken and trying to find ways to fix them, much less by seeking to assign blame for shortcomings. It is most concerned about those limitations that appear to be most intractable: human resources policies and practices that limit inno-

39  

In December 1995, the Government Accounting Office, at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee, contracted with the consulting firm Booz-Allen & Hamilton to perform a management review of LC’s operations and to deliver a report within 6 months. This report was delivered in May 1996. Along with relevant congressional testimony and an accompanying Price Waterhouse financial statement, it is available online at <http://www.gao.gov/special.pubs/loc.htm>.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×

vation and flexibility, government pay scales that restrict access to the best talent, and statutory requirements (particularly in the area of copyright) that may compel the Library to engage in activities that would be better off restructured. But even those areas can be addressed if there is support at the highest levels in the Library and in the Congress.

Mainly, however, the committee has chosen to concentrate on the problems and opportunities that are presented by the times we live in. This is an exciting moment for those who care about the preservation and transmission and dissemination of cultural heritage and cultural innovation. The excitement translates into real challenges for traditional institutions like LC and should be preserved and harnessed so as to launch a new century of innovation and service.

Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 50
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 51
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 52
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 53
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 54
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 55
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 58
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 59
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 60
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 61
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 62
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 63
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 64
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 65
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 66
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 67
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 68
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 69
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 70
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 71
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 72
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 73
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 74
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 75
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 76
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 77
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 78
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 79
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 80
Suggested Citation:"2. The Library of Congress: From Jefferson to the Twenty-First Century." National Research Council. 2000. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9940.
×
Page 81
Next: 3. Building Digital Collections »
LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress Get This Book
×
Buy Paperback | $55.00 Buy Ebook | $43.99
MyNAP members save 10% online.
Login or Register to save!
Download Free PDF

Digital information and networks challenge the core practices of libraries, archives, and all organizations with intensive information management needs in many respects—not only in terms of accommodating digital information and technology, but also through the need to develop new economic and organizational models for managing information. LC21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress discusses these challenges and provides recommendations for moving forward at the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library. Topics covered in LC21 include digital collections, digital preservation, digital cataloging (metadata), strategic planning, human resources, and general management and budgetary issues. The book identifies and elaborates upon a clear theme for the Library of Congress that is applicable more generally: the digital age calls for much more collaboration and cooperation than in the past. LC21 demonstrates that information-intensive organizations will have to change in fundamental ways to survive and prosper in the digital age.

  1. ×

    Welcome to OpenBook!

    You're looking at OpenBook, NAP.edu's online reading room since 1999. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website.

    Do you want to take a quick tour of the OpenBook's features?

    No Thanks Take a Tour »
  2. ×

    Show this book's table of contents, where you can jump to any chapter by name.

    « Back Next »
  3. ×

    ...or use these buttons to go back to the previous chapter or skip to the next one.

    « Back Next »
  4. ×

    Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

    « Back Next »
  5. ×

    Switch between the Original Pages, where you can read the report as it appeared in print, and Text Pages for the web version, where you can highlight and search the text.

    « Back Next »
  6. ×

    To search the entire text of this book, type in your search term here and press Enter.

    « Back Next »
  7. ×

    Share a link to this book page on your preferred social network or via email.

    « Back Next »
  8. ×

    View our suggested citation for this chapter.

    « Back Next »
  9. ×

    Ready to take your reading offline? Click here to buy this book in print or download it as a free PDF, if available.

    « Back Next »
Stay Connected!