With a significant collection of French books, journals and other publications in its holdings, the University of Ottawa library is an important repository of French-language works, some of which may sit on shelves for years, gathering dust until an interested party seeks them out.
But this is all changing, thanks to an innovative uOttawa project that has created digital versions of over 22,000 of these works. Through funding from the Ontario government, the University of Ottawa administration and the uOttawa library network ($900,000, $500,000 and $400,000, respectively), the project is now in its final stage.
The numbers show this initiative is already a huge success. Since the beginning of 2010, when the project first got underway, downloads have already topped 800,000—and barely any promotion has been done! Internet Archive (IA) currently offers access to 77,000 French-language publications online. The University has contributed more than 22,000 of these works, making it one of the largest contributors of free-access French publications available online. The University’s involvement in this project also underscores its commitment to open access.
“In our digital culture, if a document doesn’t exist online, for many people it doesn’t exist at all,” says Tony Horava, associate university librarian (Collections) at uOttawa, and project coordinator. “That’s why the goal of this project was to not only create digital copies our French collection but also make it as widely available as possible online at no cost to the reader.”
To make this possible, the library partnered with the non-profit organization Internet Archive (IA) to ensure the works are made freely available in multiple formats through an open access. After tackling the huge logistical challenge of identifying the thousands of works already in the public domain, i.e. published before 1923, and ensuring works in uOttawa’s collection were not already part of the University of Toronto’s French digital book collection project, library staff next prepared to send publications to the IA’s scanning centre at the University of Toronto.
The uOttawa library team organized the documents into batches for shipment and collected the metadata from its catalogue needed for the digital documents that would be produced. Staff also had to ensure the shipments were safely delivered and returned. The project, which has been ongoing for almost three years now, will soon be completed.
“It really is an incredible team effort, with many members of the library staff contributing to the project in one way or another,” says Horava. “It’s extremely satisfying to see just how many people have consulted the online collection, accessing a wide variety of primary works for research. I think that’s where you see the real value of a project like this.”
The project involved cataloguers, subject librarians, collection managers, special collections staff, shelvers, payment and administrative staff as well as University librarian, Leslie Weir, who spearheaded the original proposal. Staff from Saint-Paul University and the Centre de recherche en civilization canadienne-francaise also contributed to choosing works for this project.
Links to the online documents in Internet Archive will be included in all uOttawa catalogue records, allowing a person to easily access the digital version if the physical copy isn’t available. Horava’s team is now working with the University archives to create digital versions of older issues of La Rotonde and The Fulcrum.
You can consult the uOttawa collection in IA through the uOttawa Internet Archive portal.