During a 1962 news conference, a reporter asked President John F. Kennedy if he’d consider locating his presidential library in Washington, D.C., after leaving the White House so scholars and historians would have the broadest possible access to it. No, he replied playfully, “I’m going to put it in Cambridge, Massachusetts.”
Then Kennedy talked more seriously, and with uncanny foresight, about the future preservation and dissemination of his White House archives. “Through scientific means of reproduction, microfilms and all the rest,” he said, “it’s possible to make documents available” not only to scholars visiting his library but to anyone interested in presidential history.
Kennedy's presidential library did not end up in Cambridge. Instead, it is only a few miles away in South Boston.
Kennedy had no concept of what the World Wide Web could do to make his library available to everyone without a need to travel to Massachusetts. Now, thanks to the staff at the Library, Kennedy's prediction is becoming true, even going beyond what he had envisioned.
A four-year, $10 million effort to digitize the JFK Library and Museum’s archives, making hundreds of thousands of documents, photographs, and recordings available online, is nearing completion of its first phase. A formal announcement will come on January 13, one week before the 50th anniversary of JFK’s inauguration, at a press conference in the nation’s capitol. 200,000 pages of text, 1,500 photos, 1,250 files of audio recordings and moving images, and 340 phone conversations totaling 17 1/2 hours will be posted online in January. And that is just the beginning. 8.4 million pages of JFK’s personal papers, 40 million additional documents, 400,000 photos, 9,000 hours of audio recordings, 7.5 million feet of movie film, and 1,200 hours of video are expected to be placed online within a few years.
James Roth, the library’s deputy director, said that going online is the only method the staff found to solve a major workload problem. In short, the library is so popular that staff members could not keep up with all the requests to photocopy or digitize the available documents ad other material. Digitizing everything and placing it online will mean access for more people without visiting the library in person. The result will be less crowding and less work for staff members.
“Nowadays, the easiest part is scanning the material,” Roth said. “The issue is, what do you do with all those images? That’s the cutting-edge part of what we’re doing now.”
You can read more in an article by Joseph P. Kahn in the Boston Globe at http://goo.gl/aqg1r
This brings up an interesting question: How long will it be before all libraries realize that digitizing is the best method for increasing services to patrons while simultaneously reducing expenses? As library expenses escalate and travel expenses and inconveniences continue to rise, digitizing appears to be a win-win solution.