US Copyright Office is considering converting and uploading tens of millions of pre-1978 copyrights in its massive card catalog into a searchable, digital format called as a “virtual copyright card catalog”. Maria A. Pallante, Director of the US Copyright Office, announced the organization’s intent to digitize the 45 million items comprising the card catalog but is facing difficulty pulling things off with a “rudimentary budget.” The Copyright Office has one of the most comprehensive catalogs of published works in the world, and making its archives more accessible is an important project.
As a stopgap solution, they are now considering the possibility of putting the raw scans online:
Of the 25,723 drawers in the Copyright Card Catalog, more than 12,000 have already been scanned resulting in more than 17 million card images safely tucked away in Library storage. The long term plan is to capture index terms from the card images using OCR and keyboarding and to build indexes for online searching. But this will require significant time and money to achieve. Must we wait to share these images with you? Maybe not.
As an interim step, the Copyright Office is considering making the images of the cards in the catalog available online through a hierarchical structure that would mimic the way a researcher would approach and use the physical card catalog. We’re calling this a virtual card catalog. While it would not provide the full record level indexing that remains a principal goal, it would make information available as we’re doing the scanning and as searchable as the actual cards.