From Temple U. Libraries:
At Temple, the next frontier of print is digital. Librarians at Charles Library are digitizing hundreds of sci-fi books, preserving them in a new format and making it possible for researchers to analyze more books than they would ever be able to read at once.
The books are part of the Paskow Science Fiction Collection, which was founded in 1972 when the family of David Paskow, EDU ’69, ’71, donated 5,000 sci-fi paperbacks from his personal library to the university. The collection soon expanded to include other material that might not last long if it wasn’t archived—magazines, posters and personal papers—and branched out to incorporate fantasy.
The collection reflects Temple’s commitment to preserving what might otherwise be overlooked, said Margery Sly, director of special collections at Temple University Libraries. “Since the ’60s, [Temple has] been interested in documenting contemporary 20th century modern movements, which is somewhat unusual for rare books and special collections,” she said.
Digitizing a book means not only scanning its pages, but also running them through Optical Character Recognition, a process that transforms images into text. “Once you have converted the text into data, there are a lot of things we can learn about texts that we can’t by reading them,” [Alex] Wermer-Colan, [a postdoctoral fellow at the libraries’ Loretta C. Duckworth Scholars Studio] said.
About 300 sci-fi books have been scanned over the past two years. They’re usually only accessible on library computers (the material is IP-restricted due to copyright) but since Temple also uploaded them to HathiTrust Digital Library, they’ve been made available to read online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers who would like to study them as data can access them through the HathiTrust Research Center.