Library of Congress

Digital Preservation

The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > Partners > Visiting SCOLA

As part of the initiative to collect and preserve important digital information, the Library's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) has partnered with SCOLA (external link) a non-profit educational organization that receives and retransmits television programming from approximately 90 countries around the world in native languages. These offerings include Al-Jazeera and programs from Pakistan, Russia and the Philippines.  SCOLA was launched in 1981 and took its present form in 1993. The broadcasts are important to the Library, especially as part of its mission to serve Congress, as the lawmakers are often interested in the content of news from around the world.

SCOLA Satellite

SCOLA Satellite

For most of its existence, SCOLA re-carried broadcasts via satellite.  This satellite distribution is now supplemented by dissemination to subscribers through streaming video on the Web. For SCOLA, the move to an online digital format also entails planning for the establishment of a repository to archive and preserve the content.  The Library of Congress shares this interest in preservation, and it has entered into a cooperative agreement with SCOLA to ensure that high-interest foreign news broadcasts are archived and available for future research.  The agreement calls for the long-term preservation of about 8,000 hours of content from about 30 nations each year, with copies coming to the Library of Congress to be archived.

On Oct. 31, 2006, Beth Dulabahn and Carl Fleischhauer from the Library's Office of Strategic Initiatives visited SCOLA in McClelland, Iowa.  The organization is located in the former poor farm — once a rural communal residence for the indigent elderly — in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, just east of the Missouri River and not far from Omaha, Neb.  The terrain is hilly and fields are sculptured by terraces that follow contour lines and prevent soil erosion.  The crops and the combines that harvest them – at work on this bright autumn day – follow these curving paths.

The main part of the facility occupies a handsome masonry structure, once the farm's dormitory, adjoining two equally handsome barns and one modern building that houses the technical facilities.  Sprinkled throughout the complex are several large satellite dishes.  On a tour of the main building, Beth and Carl looked at their videotape storage rooms (their custom shelving is home made, from 2-by-6-inch lumber) and other workrooms. They then spoke to staff member Ric Marchio about the InstaClass offering, which entails taking five-minute clips of video selected from the programs and sending it to language experts who provide a transcription, a translation and a list of important words to study.  Ric also showed his visitors the "dictionary" under development for the Defense Intelligence Agency to support the teaching of languages.  Each word or term is represented by a short video clip with the word in context, as actually spoken. Then there is also a written rendering (non-Roman if appropriate) and a translation. 

TSCOLA's Chang Hong and Francis Lajba

SCOLA's Chang Hong and Francis Lajba

Another stop was the small studio where a special SCOLA-based Chinese language news show originates.  The onscreen talent is Chang Hong, who assembles clips from Chinese television services into a program that she hosts. Beth and Carl also visited staff member Dave Decker, who showed some of the printed matter that is being collected in field by the same people who are gathering the broadcast materials.

The next stop was the technical building, where the incoming and outgoing programs are managed. SCOLA executive director Francis Lajba showed the connecting point for the optical fiber that now reaches SCOLA, and he explained that he looks forward to the day when he can upgrade the service.

At the end of the tour, they sat with a half dozen SCOLA staffers and talked about the work at hand, considering what needed to be done next. The group discussed the plan to increase the quality of the digital files during the coming year, to provide better representation of programs to the archive. Lois Thomas, the coordinator for the NDIIPP project, reported on the status of SCOLA's preparations to deliver content via high-capacity external hard drives. Also discussed was the mutual desire to move to more efficient forms of delivery via Internet2, which will require an improved network setup at SCOLA's end.

The new Language Learning Center at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

The new Language Learning Center at the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

Earlier in their visit, Beth and Carl stopped at the library at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, (UNO) where they met the library dean, Stephen Shorb.  They were shown the library's new Language Learning Center, an open area on the usual route for patrons walking to the library's coffee shop.  SCOLA is prominently featured.  One wall of the center features four large television monitors, three of which play SCOLA channels.  The fourth monitor plays DVDs of foreign-language feature films.  The area in front of the wall is furnished with easy chairs and numerous wireless headphones for patron use that carry the soundtracks for the four video screens.       

The SCOLA feeds to the library are provided by the Telecomm Engineering Lab, part of the university's Peter Kiewit Institute (PKI).  PKI is able to use Internet2 to carry three of the five SCOLA channels, and these streams are provided to other universities as well as to the UNO library.

The UNO library has an important Afghan collection of printed matter and photographs, old and new, called the Arthur Paul collection. Beth and Carl visited the room where the collection is housed.  Parts of it are being digitized and access is provided on the Web. Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, attended an opening ceremony for the collection in 2005.

To conclude their visit, Beth and Carl joined many of the SCOLA staff for lunch at the Dew Drop Inn, the estimable local bar-cum-restaurant in downtown McClelland. The other downtown "sights" are a grain elevator, long-haul truck repair facility and a few houses.