Preservation Week shines light on digitization

As the American Library Association's Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (ALCTS) brings its Preservation Week initiative to a close, it has become clear to many that digitization holds many important advantages moving forward.

According to Harvard Magazine, the digitization of archives and historical collections promises "nothing less than the unification of the human cultural record online." While this may seem like an ambitious statement at first, democratizing access to knowledge has already yielded impressive research findings and could have profound implications for the common citizen as well.

However, the fundamental changes brought on by digitization raise a number of unique questions for archivists, curators and librarians.

Copyright laws, for example, are being interpreted in entirely new ways as a result of how electronically formatted works are being distributed. According to American Libraries Magazine, curators must take particular precaution when attempting to preserve and disseminate content that is not yet in the public domain. Although their intentions may be noble, incomplete assessment of related legal issues could bring unintended consequences.

Additionally, digitization efforts could do more harm than good if not properly managed. Naturally, some of the artifacts curators are hoping to preserve will be in delicate physical condition. But according to the news magazine, librarians must weigh the advantages of digitization against potentially damaging original copies beyond repair.

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