Lisa Nurnberger (hereafter to be designated LN): The age of digital technology has required the Library of Congress to reexamine its role. I'm Lisa Nurnberger with Fed Watch. The University of Pennsylvania's Jim O'Donnell headed up a National Academy of Science study that advises the Library on how to enter this new age.

Jim O'Donnell (hereafter to be designated JOD): It is the requirement of the Copyright Act that everything published in the United States be deposited in two copies to the Library of Congress for permanent archiving there.

LN: But the library has an extremely limited capacity to accept and store digital material, periodicals and other information that's only distributed online. The library is now coming to the end of a pilot project that requires registering and safeguarding 5 million digital archives. That however, says O'Donnell, is a drop in the bucket when one considers the amount of material on the World Wide Web that should be stored.

JOD: At this point, the Library does not have the capacity to register or receive, in any form, World Wide Web published materials as part of its collection. And the longer that goes on, the more of the record of what American culture is and is doing--from the late 1990s to the early 2000s--is going to be missing from their collection.

LN: Becoming the nation's repository for digital material will require vast sums of money and lots of work. For one, the Copyright Office will have to revise laws to accommodate the digital domain. That's not to mention the technical aspect of collecting online documents. The Library of Congress didn't want to put a dollar figure on it yet, but within the next few months it will submit a budget request to Congress. O'Donnell says, unlike other federal agencies, one thing the Library probably won't have to worry about, is getting a skilled information technology staff.

JOD: Within the world of libraries, the Library of Congress is just plain cool. And amazing. And huge. And gorgeous.

LN: O'Donnell says the project will benefit the public at large because it will mean that people outside of Washington will be able to access a plethora of online materials through the Library's website. I'm Lisa Nurnberger with Fed Watch.


Version #2 Reporter: Lisa Nurnberger

Lisa Nurnberger (hereafter referred to as LN): The National Academy of Sciences has released a report stating the Library of Congress is on the right track to becoming the nation's repository of digital or online information. But, it needs to scale up its efforts tenfold. I'm Lisa Nurnberger with Fed Watch Jim O'Donnell, the University of Pennsylvania's Vice-Provost for Information Systems and Computing headed up the study.

Jim O'Donnell (hereafter referred to as JOD): All libraries are significantly pressed to reinvent themselves. If you don't act in a transformative way; if you're timid, if you're cautious, then the demand for service will go and get itself answered someplace else and you'll be left behind with a building full of books--uh-a few digital initiatives--but the intellectual and cultural center of gravity having gone elsewhere.

LN: And the library, he says, will become a book museum. It's especially important for the Library of Congress to transform itself because it serves as the nation's repository for all copywritten material. The problem, says O'Donnell, is that the library now is incapable of receiving and storing digital information.

JOD: In a way, this becomes a question of archiving and receiving for Library purposes the content of the world wide web. Extraordinary variety of things that are now available only in digital form, only on the world wide web - uh. And at this point, the Library does not have the capacity to register or receive, in any form, world wide web published materials as part of its collection.

LN: And the longer that material goes unarchived, the more the record of what American culture is and is doing in the 1990s to the early 2000s is going to be missing from the Library's collection. Library of Congress Deputy Librarian, Donald Scott, says it'll take information technology staff and equipment to make the transition.

Donald Scott: This will benefit the Congress, as well as the researchers and the other citizens who use the Library of Congress.

LN: By the end of the year the Library will give Congress its budget requests through fiscal year 2004. I'm Lisa Nurnberger with Fed Watch.