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Pentagon Library Makes Valuable Documents More Accessible

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16, 2008 – As goes technology, so goes much of the Pentagon Library’s collection, its chief of technological services said.

“What we’re trying to do is to improve digital access,” Trudie Root explained. “We call it the ‘virtual library.’”

The two-pronged project will help to preserve some of the library’s old, historic documents, and will spare users the trek to the library, allowing them to click through documents on the library’s Web site, www.whs.mil/library.

Since the effort began in January, 16 documents have been “digitized,” and uploaded to the library’s Web site. Individual documents were scanned on one of two large book scanners, creating TIF files that were converted to PDF files and uploaded to the Web site.

It may seem like a small number of documents for the amount of time, Root acknowledged, but she explained that the process is labor-intensive and the equipment is relatively new to the staff.

“I started with the shortest documents, because we’re still learning,” Root said. “So, these are around 100 pages, but now I’m going to move on.”

That’s where Root encountered a conundrum. She’s unsure which documents to digitize next. The library’s collection of 300,000 to 500,000 volumes contains many important documents, she said.

Root said she and Linda McGuire, a technical information specialist hired to work on the project, want to ensure that the next documents digitized will offer the greatest benefit to the library’s customers. To make wise decisions, they’re asking for input as to which documents should be made available next.

Library customers can make suggestions or comments via the “Comments to the Library” link on the library’s Web site, Root said. “Really, we’re just trying to pick out the jewels,” she said.

Other impending changes will affect the project as well, Root said.

Eventually, the library will migrate all of its information to a new, integrated library system. This move will replace the current alphabetized listing of digitized documents on the library Web site and allow users more flexibility to search for desired documents by author, title or keywords, she said.

While this news may have frequent library visitors celebrating, it won’t help everyone needing to research, for example, the president’s budget. Only Pentagon employees can access this digitized material, and classified documents won’t be included, Root said.

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