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Digitisation could help economy, says ARL director

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The executive director of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has urged the US government to finance a large-scale digitisation project as a way to help in the current economic crisis. The project that he wants President Obama and the US Congress to back would see the country's library and other cultural collections digitised and put on the web.

In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ARL's Charles B. Lowry argued that 'Investing in an open, universal digital commons will help ease the current economic crisis by creating jobs, equipping workers with 21st-century skills, and laying a foundation for innovation and national competitiveness in business and research.'

He believes that infrastructure developments should go beyond roads and bridges. 'We should also build our digital infrastructure and equip workers with skills they can use in the years ahead—skills for the information age,' he explained.

According to Lowry, with immediate funding, up to 10,000 people could quickly be trained and employed scanning public-domain library materials. He estimates that creating a universal digital library of 10 million books would cost $300 million, which he sees as a modest price tag compared with many public-works projects.

Lowry's opinion piece, 'Let’s Spur Recovery by Investing in Information,' appeared in the 6 February 2009, issue of the Chronicle.