One of the principal goals of digitally converting historical and rarematerials is to preserve the knowledge contained in them long after thelifetime of the physical container. Ironically, the very act of scanning thesematerials can cause damage to the physical artifacts if care is not taken inhandling and treatment. In the library community, there has always been talk ofthe tension between preservation and access. To preserve treasures, they mustbe safeguarded, kept away from light and stress, and used only under restrictedcircumstances. Digital libraries seem to provide a solution to thisproblemūthe possibility of creating facsimile digital images and distributingthem widely while sheltering the original artifact from prolonged abuse.Institutions such as Keio University's HUMI Project and the Tsukuba UniversityLibrary exhibit admirable leadership to the library community by submittingtheir treasures to the scanning process. Tsukuba University Library and theNational Diet Library have stated they plan to rescan materials repeatedly asgreater storage space, high speed networks, and higher quality displaytechnology allow for superior images. In the United States this idea has notbeen expressed due to preservation, cost, and labor considerations. To retainknowledge in materials published on paper and other unstable media, handlingand preservation concerns are significant factors to face when considering thepossibility of a global digital library.

Published: February 1999; WTECHyper-Librarian