Large Scale Digitization at Toronto Public Library

At my last session on Saturday at OLA 2009 I learned about the large scale digitization project at the Toronto Public Library.

I was familiar with the Ontario Time Machine at, but Toronto Public Library’s digitization project is larger in scope. The goal is to digitize and make available (freely online and print-on-demand through Amazon) 10,000 volumes of pre-Confederation Canadian imprints.

This digitization project is called “large scale” in contrast to “mass digitization.” Mass digitization means the conversion of entire libraries, with minimal human intervention. Examples of mass digitization are Google Books and Internet Archive. Large scale digitization on the other hand means the creation of collections, usually in an effort to create complete document sets. Examples of large scale digitization are JSTOR and ECO (Early Canadiana Online).

Toronto Public Library used the scanning system from Kirtas, which employs a robotic page-turning mechanism and a 16.1 megapixel digital camera. The partnership extended to Amazon and the Canadian digitization equipment reseller, Ristech, with the goal to digitize the collection for print-on-demand. Amazon has an online store for historical reproductions. I’ve filtered the search results to books where Toronto Public Library is the publisher– click here.


Toronto Public Library’s OLA session PowerPoint file is here.

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