NSW state library to turn $3bn collection over to private sector

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NSW state library to turn $3bn collection over to private sector

In exchange for free digitisation.

The State Library of NSW has offered the private sector access to its collection of Australian historical items in the hope that digital operators might find a way to turn a buck from the resources online.

The library, whose treasure trove of records and artefacts mapping Australia’s heritage is valued at $3.15 billion, thinks the commercial sector could hold the answer to electronically preserving its vast holdings at little or no cost to the state government.

Despite nearing the end of a 10-year, $72 million digitisation journey, the State Library has still only managed to electronically preserve less than 1 percent of its total collection, which is made up of 6.3 million items like monographs, sheet music, newspaper collections, microfilm, videos, stamps, photographs and architectural blueprints.

It is in a hurry to get the most fragile and vulnerable pieces captured electronically to preserve them for future generations of students and historians, and hopes there is a business model for making these resources searchable online.

Tender documents reveal the library has invited pitches from third parties for ideas about how to “digitally liberate” the collection, under the moniker of its open digitisation partnership rogram.

Digital partners will be expected to provide all the staff, equipment and other resources required to scan, tag and capture the assets, and to prove to the library that they can be trusted to care for highly valuable historical artefacts.

The State Library has also made it clear that partners will not be able to claim any new copyright over the electronic versions of the resources, and that any records created must remain in the public domain in accordance with public library policy.

However, partners will be free to claim copyright over any online databases and services they may built around the digitised resources.

The library hopes to have interested parties signed up by June 2016.

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