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OCLC, Olive Software Ally to Digitize Library Newspaper Archives
Posted On May 28, 2002
OCLC Digital and Preservation Resources ( has signed an agreement with Olive Software ( to supply libraries with the tools to digitize historical newspaper archives. Under the new arrangement, OCLC will become the exclusive worldwide distributor of Olive Software to the library market. Olive Software's primary market remains newspaper publishers. The goal of the new program is to help libraries preserve historical newspapers and open the content to online searchable access.

Olive Software can speedily build an index, searchable to the article level, of every article, photograph, and page for newspapers in print or on microfilm. It can also integrate clippings and entire saved newspaper editions. Once digitized, libraries can make online newspapers accessible via their own Web sites or by using OCLC's servers.

"Through this partnership with Olive, OCLC is taking a leadership role in helping libraries preserve some of their most valuable resources," said Meg Bellinger, vice president of OCLC Digital and Preservation Resources. "The large volume of pages we can process at our facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, greatly enhances the usability of important content, creating for the first time highly functional, affordable newspaper digitization opportunities for all types and sizes of libraries to serve their users."

Once a newspaper collection has been digitized and prepared for online access with Olive Software, a library can mount the collection on its own server or can choose to host the collection on an OCLC server. In either case, the library retains complete control and can decide whether to provide access to just its own community or to researchers worldwide. In addition, OCLC will provide a subscription-based service to provide access to selected full-text historical newspaper collections.

"Newspapers are valuable research sources for scholars," said Bellinger. "The Olive/OCLC alliance represents a major advance in making these materials more accessible and more user-friendly. Users will be able to pore over libraries' collections at their convenience. Digitized fragile materials will no longer require white-glove treatment. These materials are literally being unchained from special collections rooms and microfilm readers and will be available to users when and where they need them."

Yoni Stern, president and CEO of Olive Software, said: "As a solid partner with a unique market position and enormous customer base, microfilm and digitization services complementary to Olive's own, and a forward-looking strategy, OCLC will help Olive's technology reach libraries around the world, making it possible for communities to search and access written history as it was originally printed."

Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Denver, with a research subsidiary in Israel, Olive Software has two major products: ActivePaper Daily and ActivePaper Archive. The former transforms print editions into Web products automatically. The latter converts print editions to XML with full storage of content, structure, and layout, interlacing images of newspaper articles and pages for searching and retrieval.

A joint project by OCLC, The British Library, Oxford University, and Olive Software was demonstrated at ALA's Midwinter Meeting in January. This constituted "proof of concept," according to Bellinger, and led to the agreement just signed. Under the agreement, price points have dropped significantly through the arrangement OCLC has negotiated for the library market.

Bellinger told me that libraries will only apply this technology to public domain material—in particular, 18th- and 19th-century newspapers that have dropped out of copyright. She expects that some librarians may work out arrangements with local newspaper publishers to co-market or distribute materials. Some libraries may choose to set up e-commerce payment programs for authorized access to digitized files for non-constituent patrons, for example, while others may choose to let OCLC offer integrated access to a number of historical files. Under either approach, libraries could see revenue streams develop, according to Bellinger.

Currently, the main digitization efforts for historical newspapers come from ProQuest, but both ProQuest representatives and Bellinger agree that there should be little or no competition between the two programs. ProQuest continues to focus on the top national and major regional newspapers, rather than local papers. By making arrangements with publishers, ProQuest can also digitize material for which the publisher owns copyright and can offer more complete newspaper archives (although they're still vulnerable to Tasini removals).

A ProQuest representative said: "While in a general sense the OCLC project is similar to ours, the approach, thoroughness, and content (both source and depth) are significantly different. Both approaches are good for the library community in that access to historical information is enhanced. Both organizations are working to make information more available to libraries, and that's good for libraries and patrons. Also, whereas libraries are funding the OCLC project, ProQuest is putting the initial investment into its newspaper project. (P.S. It is significant.)"

The status of ProQuest's efforts currently stands at the following:

  • The New York Times—99-percent complete
  • The Wall Street Journal—99-percent complete
  • The Washington Post—30-percent finished; scheduled for completion in early 2003
  • The Christian Science Monitor—scheduled for 2003
This OCLC effort represents a significant component in the trend for libraries to become digital content providers. As the leading library vendor, OCLC's support for the aggressive production of digital content pushes libraries to spend their budgets on permanent acquisition of content, instead of endless licensing outlays. It also opens opportunities for libraries to bring strong content to the Web and for the Web to offer libraries revenue-building options.

Barbara Quint was senior editor of Online Searcher, co-editor of The Information Advisor’s Guide to Internet Research, and a columnist for Information Today.

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