Friday, January 1, 2010

Digitize your own library: the Genesis of your information search

The internet has become such an integral part of our daily lives that it's hard to imagine life without it. In fact, some of the younger viewers out there may NOT remember a time without information available with a few quick keystrokes.

Myself, I can remember a frustrating time pre-WWW when research on obscure topics was nearly an impossibility. Hours, even days, could be spent at public libraries scouring over volumes only to find a little snippet of information. The problem with public libraries is that they are designed for everyone to use and therefore, their holdings had to be more mainstream. I can remember, in the early 1980's, trying to find some information on antique electric fans. After spending months trying to find information on different manufacturers, repair, and availability of antique fans and coming up with nothing, I finally gave up. Today, antique electric fans is a very popular collectible and a Google search quickly came up with 266,000 hits.

I am sure a lot of people can relate to that experience and I imagine a lot of you did exactly what I did: began collecting rare and out-of-print books on the obscure topics we loved. Personally, I let it get to the point that it is overwhelming. I have books everywhere in my home and a whole storage unit filled with tomes from the past.

The point is this: when beginning a research project, the ideal starting point is the home library, but where do you start from there? Wouldn't it be great if your home libray were digitzed and available online?

After doing some primary research on Google, I was immediately drawn to an Instructables article on building your own book scanner using reclaimed parts and cheap digital cameras. The creator of this particular Instructable is a devotee of digitizing knowledge and has expanded the Instructable to include a whole website. It was with great interest and enthusiasm that I have read and re-read every facet of these pages and, although I have yet to create one of my own, I am indebted to these people for giving me the ideas and plans necessary to do so.