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National Library of Scotland to digitize archive

Rare books will become e-books at library whose collection includes copies of every publication in the U.K. going back to the Middle Ages.

The National Library of Scotland has kicked off a $3.6 million project to digitize its archive and make it available online.

The NLS, established in 1925, holds copies of every publication in the U.K., dating from the Middle Ages right up to the latest novels.

The rare book collections alone comprise 1 million books. Many of these are original printed volumes dating from 1455. The core of the collection is Scottish material.

David Dinham, the library's information and communications technology manager, said storing the collections electronically will both protect them against disaster and improve the public's access to rare and valuable documents. Until now, public access to some ancient documents in fragile condition has been restricted to preserve them.

Part of the project has been awarded to Glasshouse Technologies to provide consultancy in the design and implementation of a new storage infrastructure to make available the 100 terabytes needed to store the archive.

Glasshouse was hired by the library on a consultancy basis, to help it work up its bid for funding from the Scottish Executive, and is expected to continue working on the project until 2009.

Julian Goldsmith of reported from London.