The only way to get to the files is if:
The iPod mounts on the desktop and you can actually open it and look at the directory structure inside. or
You can access it via the command line.
Either way, if you can get to them, I think you will find it confusing and really difficult to actually find the files you want to keep.
I did find this resource online, it is old and I cannot vouch for it: http://www.ilounge.com/index.php/articles/comments/copying-music-from-ipod-to-computer/
Good luck. I'll open this question up and see if anyone else picks it up for you. They may have more ideas.
this time when i plugged in the ipod a screen popped up saying it can scan and repair the data storage device (the ipod) so I clicked it but it later says the device cannot be found....almost an answer. Im reading what you gave me thanks!
something else...I try to open the ipod in "my computer" and the ipod starts making buzzing and whirring sounds. Eventually (though the computer still recognizes the ipod by the name we gave it) a screen pops up saying PLEASE INSERT A DISK INTO the ipod drive...which i can't obviously do. probably the sounds mean even a system reboot/re-sync will not fix the problem
if there was a way to fix this, I assume you would know?
There is really nothing else. I think, given the history of the iPod and the symptoms you stated, it should be restored through iTunes. And that may not be successful. There are data recovery companies that do a great job for a huge price. DriveSavers.com is the industry standard. If the data you have is worth a lot of money let me know and I can help with that process.