Digital Library Digest: August 10, 2012

Posted by Christina Powers on August 10, 2012 in Digital Library Digest.

Petersburg digitization project offers 240,000 documents available through Virginia Memory Web portal

“The Library of Virginia recently announced it has completed Petersburg’s chancery records digitization project. The digitization effort means that nearly 240,000 documents are now available to the public for free through the Virginia Memory Web portal

“The project—which took more than 10 years to complete—was partially funded by a $155,071 grant of from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“The Petersburg chancery records contain a wealth of information on the African American experience, women’s history, and southern labor and business history in the antebellum and post-Civil War periods. The Petersburg chancery is comprised of case files from the Petersburg Court of Chancery, 1787 to 1912, and includes bills of complaint, affidavits, wills, business records, correspondence and photographs.

“The importance of Petersburg as a prosperous and diverse city, a commercial and industrial center, as well as a transportation hub can be explored in the chancery cases. These records offer social, demographic and economic details that affected state, regional, and national politics, legal decisions and institutions. Prior to 1860, Petersburg had the largest population of free people of color in the Mid-Atlantic states. The suits document this aspect of Petersburg’s robust and diverse population as free African Americans, as well as its women, laborers, and artisans, who used the courts to recover debts, settle estates, divorce spouses, assert land ownership, or dissolve partnerships.”

From The Progress-Index article, Historic Petersburg records now online

The future of book design: cover art in an e-book world

“In the olden days, a reader might pick up a book because the cover was exciting, intriguing, maybe even beautiful. But in the brave new world of e-books and e-readers, the days when an artist named Chip Kidd could make us reach for a book may be gone.

“Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, has designed book covers for the past 25 years for authors like Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, David Sedaris and Michael Crichton. Remember the menacing Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton on movie posters for Jurassic Park? The original version was Kidd’s cover design for the novel.

“Earlier this year, Kidd gave a TED talk on the art of designing books. He told the audience that while e-books offer convenience, the growing digital publishing world risks losing ‘tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness, [and] a little bit of humanity.’

“‘They need some kind of visual representation, whether you’re going to be seeing them the size of a postage stamp on a computer screen or a smartphone, or sitting on a table, or on a shelf, or in a bookstore,’ he says.”

From the NPR article, In the E-Book World, Are Book Covers A Dying Art?

Open access across the pond will make British scientific research free and available to all by 2014

“The government is to unveil controversial plans to make publicly funded scientific research immediately available for anyone to read for free by 2014, in the most radical shakeup of academic publishing since the invention of the internet.

“The move reflects a groundswell of support for ‘open access’ publishing among academics who have long protested that journal publishers make large profits by locking research behind online paywalls. ‘If the taxpayer has paid for this research to happen, that work shouldn’t be put behind a paywall before a British citizen can read it,’ Willetts said.

“The government’s decision is outlined in a formal response to recommendations made in a major report into open access publishing led by Professor Dame Janet Finch, a sociologist at Manchester University. Willetts said the government accepted all the proposals, except for a specific point on VAT that was under consideration at the Treasury.

“Further impetus to open access is expected in coming days or weeks when the Higher Education Funding Council for England emphasises the need for research articles to be freely available when they are submitted for the Research Excellence Framework, which is used to determine how much research funding universities receive.

“The Finch report strongly recommended so-called ‘gold’ open access, which ensures the financial security of the journal publishers by essentially swapping their revenue from library budgets to science budgets. One alternative favoured by many academics, called “green” open access, allows researchers to make their papers freely available online after they have been accepted by journals. It is likely this would be fatal for publishers and also Britain’s learned societies, which survive through selling journal subscriptions.”

From Ian Sample’s article in The Guardian, Free access to British scientific research within two years

With shrinking budgets and shifting public interests, has the Bronx’s Huntington Free Library become obsolete?

“The stacks of the Huntington Free Library and Reading Room in the Bronx once overflowed with American Indian manuscripts, books and artwork so prized that the Smithsonian Institution tried unsuccessfully to seize the collection.

“But decades of financial trouble eventually forced the historic but little-known library to part with the collection, emptying the annex that had been built for its signature asset.

“Today, like a mid-career changer, it is awkwardly trying to reinvent itself in a more humble role: that of a traditional community library.

“Now city officials have a plan to make the Huntington a central part of their redevelopment efforts. They are negotiating to buy part of its property and replace the annex with a building to be used as a local branch of the New York Public Library, which is in an aging structure a few blocks away.

“With the rise of lending libraries, including one that opened nearby in 1937, the Huntington’s popularity faded. But it remained a destination for research because of its world-class American Indian collection, begun in 1930 when Huntington’s stepson, Archer, acquired books and manuscripts from the Museum of the American Indian, then in Upper Manhattan.

“Mr. Casey, the library’s president, said that selling the annex would raise the money needed to fix up the library’s landmark building and create ‘a symbiotic relationship’ with the public library, collaborating on programs and pooling resources to attract more patrons. The Huntington, for instance, maintains a sizable collection of Bronx history books and newspapers.”

From Winnie Hu’s article in The New York Times, Private Library Labors to Be Relevant Again

Crowdfunding suspended: Amazon forces into a sticky situation

“Amazon Payments has informed us that they will no longer process pledge payments for, forcing us to suspend all active ungluing campaigns. According to a Senior Account Manager at Amazon, Amazon has decided against ‘boarding fresh crowdfunding accounts at this time.’ Amazon has been providing payment services for, as it does for the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

“ offers a win-win solution to readers, who want to read and share their favorite books conveniently, and rights holders, who want to be rewarded for their work.

“The website supports crowdfunding campaigns to raise money for specific, already-published books. When a campaign reaches the goal set by the rights holders, pays them to ‘unglue’ their work. Supporters get a digital edition with a Creative Commons license as specified during the campaign. These licenses make the edition free and legal for everyone to read, copy, and redistribute, worldwide. Everybody benefits.”

From the blog post, Open thread: Amazon forces to Suspend Crowdfunding for Creative Commons eBooks

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