What does the future hold for YesWeScan?

Posted by Alessandra Morgan on January 26, 2012 in Blog.

The recent “YesWeScan” open letter and petition to the President called for the development of a national strategy or even a Federal Scanning Commission to undertake the massive task of evaluating the holdings of our nation’s federal institutions and then developing a strategy for digitizing them. While the period for collecting signatures has ended, YesWeScan has generated conversation and interest surrounding the challenges that this will present and how we can possibly begin to address them.

David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, recently wrote a blog post addressing the YesWeScan letter and petition, in which he noted that while the OpenGov initiative has several ongoing projects dedicated to the digitization of government documents, it doesn’t constitute a unified digitization strategy.

In the hopes of starting a national conversation on the issue over the next few weeks, Ferriero invited comments on his blog post about how the National Archives and other governmental organizations should proceed.

 “…what should the National Archives’ priorities be? Do we focus on preserving deteriorating paper records, still bound with red ribbons from two centuries ago? Do we make digital copies of Vietnam Era film footage? Should we focus on preserving those older paper records while citizens volunteer to digitize more recent, and better preserved, records?


You can add your thoughts over on the National Archives blog, and I’m looking forward to having a longer discussion with the creators and signers of this petition on this important issue in the coming weeks– more details on that will follow.”

There are many questions that need to be answered, and many more have been raised already in comments to his blog post.

Just how feasible is the goal of digitizing the documentary holdings of the federal government, and what is the true value and cost of this endeavor? Is the goal to scan all documents or just selected portions based on demand, use, or some other criteria? Should a scan-on-demand policy be implemented at government repositories, where documents are scanned as they are used? Should the scanning occur more methodologically, perhaps based on some evaluation rubric? Both? How does YesWeScan potentially inform or impact ongoing government scanning efforts and the standards and processes in place for future digitization efforts? What does the future hold for YesWeScan?

Add your thoughts in the comments!

One Comment

  1. Carl Malamud says:

    We can ask why this won’t work and find many reasons, in blog comments or otherwise as you have pointed out. But, it is important that we also look to the future, see the potential, and find out how to make things work. The DPLA should be about the audacity of hope, a place where the makers, and the doers, and the risk-takers can say “Yes We Can.” Let’s get started instead of sitting back and making up reasons why not.

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