A massive digitizing initiative is under way to put hundreds of thousands of books, newspapers, and periodicals on the internet. The information archivist company UMI announced that it will scan its collection of printed materials to give schools access to 500 years and 5.5 billion pages of documents via the internet.

UMI announced The Digital Vault Initiative at the annual conference of the American Library Association (ALA) in Washington, D.C., on June 28. Dozens of companies touted products designed to propel school libraries into the digital age. UMI said the effort will create the world’s largest digital archives of written works.<

A division of Bell & Howell Company, UMI already offers online access to 20,000 periodicals and 7,000 newspapers via its ProQuest Direct internet service. More than 8,000 K-12 schools subscribe to ProQuest Direct, the company said.

Digital Vault

The Digital Vault Initiative will give ProQuest Direct subscribers access to the remainder of UMI’s extensive collection. The collection dates back to the invention of printing in 1475, the company said. Stored in three temperature-controlled vaults at the company’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., the archives range from Shakespeare’s renowned First Folio edition of 1623 to 19th century newspapers to this week’s edition of Time magazine.

When the initiative is completed after years of scanning, UMI’s archive will be the deepest resource of historical documents on the web, the company said.

ALA president Barbara Ford called the digitization of UMI’s vast microform library a “perfect use” of new media, citing the easy accessibility students will enjoy as a result.

“Microform has never been a format that anyone has been especially fond of,” Ford said. “If the online archive is well-indexed–and UMI has a very good track record–this will be a wonderful use of the technology.”


American Library Association