Library of Congress embraces YouTube, iTunes

The Washington, D.C., library will begin uploading its digital materials to online services

The U.S. Library of Congress has begun uploading its audio archives to iTunes, and it will soon begin to post videos on YouTube, in an effort to make its materials easier for the public to access.

The library already offers the materials at its own Web site, LOC.gov, and through interactive exhibitions on its new, personalized Web site at myLOC.gov, but the expansion to YouTube and Apple's iTunes is part of the library's efforts to make its 15.3 million digital items more accessible, said Matt Raymond, the library's director of communications.

"Our broad strategy is to 'fish where the fish are,' and to use the sites that give our content added value -- in the case of iTunes, ubiquity, portability, etc.," Raymond said in an e-mail.

The decision to post audio and video on iTunes and YouTube follows a successful launch early last year of a library photo archive on Flickr. Since January 2008, the library's photos on Flickr have been viewed about 15.7 million times, and more than 20,000 Flickr users have added the Library of Congress as a contact, said Michelle Springer, digital initiatives project manager in the library's Web Service Division.

The library initially uploaded 3,100 photos to Flickr and has added 50 a week since then.

The library has already uploaded 39 podcasts to iTunes and plans more, Springer said. For its YouTube launch, in coming weeks, the library plans to start with about 100 videos.

Among the items Web surfers can expect on iTunes and YouTube are 100-year-old films from Thomas Edison's studio, book talks with contemporary authors, early industrial films from Westinghouse factories, first-person audio accounts of life in slavery, and inside looks into the library's holdings, including the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and the contents of President Abraham Lincoln's pockets on the night of his assassination.

The library also has a Twitter stream, and library information is available on more than 30 RSS feeds and e-mail alert services. The library also launched one of the first blogs from a federal agency.

Asked why the library chose YouTube and iTunes, Raymond said the library will continue to explore other ways to share its holdings.

"The library is in an exploration stage with these new media distribution channels," Springer added. "These services are a place to start learning, but our agreements are not exclusive, so other services are certainly possible in the future."

On Thursday, the U.S. General Services Administration announced agreements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and blip.tv that will allow other federal agencies to participate in new media, library officials said. GSA plans to negotiate agreements with other providers.

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