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Q&A: Digital Library Director Says Innovation, Leadership Require More Than a Vision

Executing on ideas can be a big hurdle for project teams, award recipient says

By Don Tennant
June 4, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Laura Campbell, who works at the Library of Congress as associate librarian for strategic initiatives and director of the National Digital Library Program, is the recipient of the 2007 EMC Information Leadership Award. The award is given annually to an IT user as part of the Computerworld Honors Program, which is also recognizing two other individuals as well as numerous organizations that are using technology to promote social, economic or educational advancements.

Campbell and the other award recipients will be honored at a gala event in Washington tonight. Last month, Campbell spoke with Computerworld to record an oral history describing the Library of Congress efforts to collect and preserve digital content and to digitize other information for online access. Excerpts from the interview follow:

Laura Campbell
Laura Campbell
Can you describe the scope of the collection thats being digitized, and the value of that information and the born digital materials youre preserving? Im not certain we really understood the power of what we were undertaking at the time. The digitized material was easier for us to say, Look what were doing for education. Were having a big impact: Young people want to be able to use high-quality educational material online.

The born-digital [content], we werent even certain of the scale at first. In the year 2000, when we were making this pitch about building a digital collection for the nation, we knew a lot of material was being created in digital form. [But] we had no idea how fast that would happen.

This year, 161 exabytes of digital content will be produced. Its estimated that by 2010, 988 exabytes of digital content will be produced. [Editors note: 1 exabyte is equal to 1 billion gigabytes.]

Obviously, youre not going to collect all of that, nor would you want to collect all of it. Some material is important and interesting, and some is just interesting. So part of what libraries and archivists bring to this process is developing an approach for what you select  the collection development part  and curating what is brought in: Whats important for Congress to have? Whats important for researchers and students to have now, and whats important for your great, great grandchildren to have?


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