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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

USDA looking for free digitization services, sort of

The Agriculture Department is looking for contractors to digitize the National Agricultural Library, but they don’t want to pay anything.

Instead, the winning contractors will get the rights to market and sell access to the digitized material.

And it’s quite a range of materials. The library contains “monographs, serials, bound newspapers, pamphlets, manuscripts, sound recordings, films, videos, sheet music, photographs, posters, microfilm, and maps,” according to solicitation documents.

To help the contractors recoup their costs, the library will not make the digitized materials publicly available for up to five years. Access to the materials can only come through the contractor.

The library has a current digitization effort underway but wants to expand it because of increasing demand online materials.

USDA wants to increase access and preserve the materials. The agency expects to make multiple awards under the contract. They will compete for digitization projects.

To get a sense of the kind of material to be digitized, I looked at items already digitized and available on the website. These include the text of the only known speech on agriculture policy given by Abraham Lincoln. There also are copies of the Plant Inventory, a  periodical dating to 1898 on plant materials introduced into the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System.

Other documents cover topics such as gypsy moths and screw worms. And there are lots of photos of cows, pigs and chickens. (It made me a little homesick.) In short, it seems that anything and everything related to agriculture – one of the biggest industries in the country if not the world – is available there.

The solicitation was originally posted in June, but an amendment this week pushed the response date back to Feb. 29.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 12, 2015 at 9:33 AM


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