Developments in Search, Digital Archives, and More

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Maybe it's the cooler weather, the fourth quarter rush to impress investors, or the busy fall conference season (October saw WebSearch University, Internet Librarian International, and KMWorld; Internet Librarian is just around the corner, followed by Online Information in London), but, whatever the reason, things have sure been lively in the information industry. Looking over the last few weeks, we've seen news of interesting company alliances, search engine developments, ongoing digital preservation and access initiatives, and continuing discussions of open access issues. And, while digesting all this news, many of us have been glued to coverage of the presidential debates and political campaigns. Whew! I'll be ready for a winter vacation.

New Dance Partners

The big news in mid-October was the change in Factiva's dance partner for the legal market. The company announced that it has signed an exclusive agreement with competitor LexisNexis. Under the terms of the 5-year deal, beginning March 1, 2005, LexisNexis will provide Factiva content on an exclusive basis to legal market customers-bringing the full text of The Wall Street Journal and other unique Factiva content (estimated to be about 3,400 sources) to LexisNexis customers for the first time.

Factiva has had a 10-year partnership with Thomson West, allowing Westlaw customers to access Factiva content. That contract is ending Feb. 28, 2005. Westlaw customers will either have to do without the Factiva content or use LexisNexis to get it. This is likely to cause considerable customer discontent. Thomson West has said it will be adding content to Westlaw from The New York Times, Thomson Financial News (which includes an exclusive partnership with MarketWatch, Inc.), and Dialog NewsRoom. But, while these are excellent additions, the unique Factiva content really can't be replaced. This is just another example of units within The Thomson Corp. building on logical synergies and leveraging content and technologies from within the Thomson family.

Digital Preservation and Access

We've had encouraging news about several major initiatives in digital preservation and access in recent times. Washington state recently unveiled the beta of its new Digital Archive system, which is designed to stem the loss of key government electronic records. The Delete key is a villain when it comes to the preservation of the electronic daily record of governments, and programs like the one in Washington are vital for the long-term survival of these historical records. Other states are working on guidelines and policies, and are creating educational tools to help preserve documents. Some state archivists have even taken custody of electronic records within their state and are actively working to preserve them.

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) launched its Electronic Records Archive (ERA) project back in 1998. It spent more than 5 years researching the problems and possibilities surrounding the issue of electronic record preservation. In August 2004, after a rigorous competitive process, NARA awarded two contracts for the design of ERA. At the end of a 1-year competition, NARA will select one of these two contractors (Lockheed Martin or Harris Corp.) to actually build ERA. Its goal is to have a functional subset of the system operational in 2007, with full operation by 2011.

The Library of Congress (LOC) recently awarded eight institutions and their partners more than $14.9 million to "identify, collect, and preserve digital materials within a nationwide digital preservation infrastructure." The institutions will share responsibilities for preserving "at-risk digital materials of significant cultural and historical value to the nation." The broad-based partnerships include universities, supercomputing centers, private corporations, foundations, and state libraries. The eight preservation projects range widely in subject, from geospatial data resources to opinion polls and voting records, and public television programs. …