The Charge of the Scan Brigade —
UPDATE: Read the Bottom.
I’m writing this quickly because it’s a simple idea, the simplest of simple ideas, although it could really change things up in the world. It is a San Francisco-based thing at the moment, in case you want to know if you can throw yourself bodily at it or need to throw your San Francisco friend bodily into it.
Here’s the pitch.
The Internet Archive (where I work at) has a room full of Scribe scanners. These are very nice scanners! They can take a book or item that is bound, or items that are not bound, and allow you to scan them very, very quickly. Much quicker than the classic “person with a flatbed” and in a way that is not “person with a flatbed and an x-acto knife and a very soon to be sad bound book”.
A Scribe scanner can scan a hundreds-of-pages book in less than 10 minutes. If you really have your act together and the book didn’t spend 9 years at the bottom of a swamp or have a “surprise” flaw in it, you can do it in under five. These are the books you see scanned on the Internet Archive’s book collection.
To do this, the Internet Archive has a set of paid employees (often doing contractual scans with libraries and other organizations) and volunteers. They work nearly 24 hours a day, in a couple dozen locations around the world. They scan books. A LOT OF BOOKS.
Here is a Live Statusboard of books being added to the Archive. Make it the full-screen item on a monitor in your room – it’s very exciting. And clickable, in case something catches your eye.
So this one’s been brewing, and I have the go-ahead to pursue it.
I AND ANOTHER SET OF PEOPLE HAVE INTERESTING AND VALUABLE PRINTED MATERIALS RELATED TO COMPUTER HISTORY WE’RE SITTING ON. LET’S ASSEMBLE SOME SAN-FRANCISCO-BASED VOLUNTEERS TO SCAN THEM ON SUNDAY AFTERNOONS FOR A SET PERIOD OF TIME. LET’S PUT ALL THIS STUFF ONLINE AND THEN I AND OTHERS CAN CHOOSE TO DONATE THESE MATERIALS TO COMPUTER HISTORY ARCHIVES, SAFE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THEY ARE BOTH ONLINE NOW AND STORED FOR THE FUTURE.
Pretty simple, huh.
It is October 1st, 2012. This Friday, October 5th, the Internet Archive has an open lunch where there’s tours of the place, including the scanning room, and people get up and talk about what they’re up to. The Internet Archive is at 300 Funston Street. I’m here all week and into next.
Do you have an interest? Would you like a tour (either during the lunch on Friday or another time you arrange with me) and then you’d get schooled on how to add an item’s metadata, and then you scan in these materials?
Well guess what.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or come to this lunch at noon this Friday, let’s talk it out.
My dream is there’s this known shift, afternoons on Sundays, where the Scan Brigade mailing list agrees who takes the shift for this week, and it gets done. The more people, the more likely every slot gets filled. As a bonus, I’ve been told there’s room for Scan Brigade people who want to come at other times than this established Sunday to come in. So do you get the scanning bug and want to do it three times a week? That can happen.
Let’s do this.
Let’s demolish this pile.
It’s worth a shot, right?
So, I shot a little high with this one. What I didn’t know (and probably couldn’t, because I’m a remote employee), is that the Internet Archive hasn’t run a weekend shift in a very, very long time – and they no longer have an evening shift of any kind, having scaled back recently. Maybe this is an excellent time to consider a tax-deductable donation! But regardless, this means I can’t have people in on unusual hours, since there’s no-one else there, and I don’t live in SF, which means I can’t open the place on weekends (otherwise I totally would).
So consider this one dormant. We’re looking at lending me one of the machines locally in New York, where I live, and then I’d have a different range of NY-based folks involved in the project. Details on that if/when it happens. The dream is not over!
Categorised as: Archive Team
Comments are disabled on this post
Sigh … yet another reason I need to get my butt back to San Francisco. I’d volunteer for this just for a chance to see and play with those fancy scanners. For an old print-media hoarder from way back, this looks like the path to freedom from the hoard…
If I weren’t living in the middle of nowhere (aka Sarpsborg, Norway), I’d be happy to volunteer time to this… Lots of time!
Now where the fuck did I leave my portal from Germany to SF… it was even paid off and not that shitty goverment-issued type… girlfriend probably chucked it in the closet with the gravity gun…
Look, Jase ….
DO NOT take this the wrong way as I am absolutely sure your heart’s in the right place,
but judt why, exactly are you doing this?
I mean, I can see the computer magazines & everything being done — the “Computer Gaming World” PDF archive is a gift from God itself! — but I’ll wager 99.9% of the books you’re Scribe-ing will never ever be looked at.
And all of the important works I’m sure’s been covered already by the Gutenberg Project.
Is “Just Knowing It’s There & Available” really a good enough reason to be doing all of this incredibly difficult work ….?
Yes. Yes it is.
As one who has done lots of historical research, I can assure you that there have been plenty of times I’ve come across references to very obscure materials that, say, the Safavid court of Abbas the Great deemed to be too uninteresting to be preserved. In other words, there have been plenty of times that some small number of people (sometimes just one person) in the past have thrown a wrench into my research.
I think if you would listen to some of the many interviews Jason has given on the Archive Team in general, you’ll get a much better answer that totally applies to this scanning project. His best example is the seemingly mundane letter of a Civil War soldier that inadvertently reveals, to the historian’s eye, lots of additional information.
So, just because these things aren’t sexy (say, an early review of Doom or the first mention of Google in print) doesn’t mean they won’t have anything to say to future historians looking into computing and communications history.
In Ye Olden Tymes, library books had little paper tabs inside where a librarian would rubber-stamp a due date. One could see how often a book had been checked out by looking at the tabs.
In Ye Olden Tymes, library books contained little paper tabs where a librarian would rubber-stamp a due date. One could see whend and how often a book had been checked out by reviewing the tabs.
I have opened books like this in a university library, to see that that a book printed 40 years previously had been checked out once. Others, perhaps zero times. (Though one couldn’t be certain, as the tabs were removed when they ran out of stamp-space.) Perhaps they were looked at in the library. Perhaps I was the first person to do so.
Should these books not have been in the library?
Should these books not have been in the library?
P.S. Scan Brigade: one more reason I regret leaving the Bay Area.
P.P.S. Sorry about the cut-n-paste snafu.
Whatever, man ….
I was just saying doing only for the ske of doing it wasn’t motive enough for such an enormous undertaking.
But you guys seem to think that that’s justification enough in & of itself, so that’s that.
Everyone’s entitled to their own opinions & I guess this is yours.
iPadCary, I’m mostly concerned you would be so malinformed and so unaware of the reason I do things, yet I believe you’ve been reading me a long time.
However, I do want to take one minor point of condition:
I HATE being called “Jase”.
Won’t happen again.
And yes, I’ve been reading textfiles/ASCII for awhile now — for around a decade or so! lol
Why is there no such thing here in Germany? Or maybe there is, and I don’t know about it?
I would spend most weekends there I guess…
What would be needed to set up a branch of the IA here in Germany? *lol*
I’d do this for a weekend every once in a while if there were somewhere closer. Is there a scanning location in the eastern half of the country?