While efforts to digitize the contents of libraries has been going on for years now by organizations such as the Internet Archive and Google, the Library of Congress and, in fact, the U.S. Government, has yet to embark on its own comprehensive digitization program. There are efforts here and there, but nothing tackling all the books, film, and other content owned by the United States.
While the topic didn't make its way into President Obama's Sate of the Union speech last night, Mr. Obama's former transition team co-chair, John Podesta, thinks creating a “Digital Library of Congress” comprised of “the vast holdings of the federal government” deserves executive level attention. I spoke with him by phone in the TCTV video above.
He's calling the initiative, "Yes We Scan"
My suggestion to him: get Google to do it for free in return for a reprieve from the government's never-ending antitrust investigations. I am only half-joking. It could be their penance. Forget all the long and counterproductive antitrust trials, and just go straight to the settlement. Hell, Google might do it for free just to get all those books into its search engine and Google Books (many of the works, such as all government publications, are without copyright anyway).
Podesta characterizes current digitizing efforts across federal government entities as underwhelming, and doesn't necessarily rule out inviting Google (which is already digitizing libraries across the world) to help with the proposed project.
Podesta (who also served as President Clinton's Chief of Staff) is the founder of Center for American Progress. Partnering with public.resource.org, he is petitioning the White House to build this central 21st century digital library by scanning content tucked away in places like the National Archives and the Smithsonian Institution.
He believes the material, made universal, would prove invaluable in aiding research and education – and is encouraging the White House to craft a strategy to get the job done. This one is a no-brainer.