Can We Create a National Digital Library? Robert Darnton

October 28, 2010 Issue

The following talk was given at the opening of a conference at Harvard on October 1 to discuss the possibility of creating a National Digital Library.

The purpose of this meeting is to discuss a question of vital importance to the cultural life of our country: Can we create a National Digital Library? That is, a comprehensive library of digitized books that will be easily accessible to the general public. Simple as it sounds, the question is extraordinarily complex. It involves issues that concern the nature of the library to be built, the technological difficulties of designing it, the legal obstacles to getting it off the ground, the financial costs of constructing and maintaining it, and the political problems of mobilizing support for it.

Despite the complexities, the fundamental idea of a National Digital Library (or NDL) is, at its core, straightforward. The NDL would make the cultural patrimony of this country freely available to all of its citizens. It would be the digital equivalent of the Library of Congress, but instead of being confined to Capitol Hill, it would exist everywhere, bringing millions of books and other digitized material within clicking distance of public libraries, high schools, junior colleges, universities, retirement communities, and any person with access to the Internet.

The ambition behind this project goes back to the founding of this country. Thomas Jefferson formulated it succinctly: “Knowledge is the common property of mankind.” He was right—in principle. But in practice, most of humanity has been cut off from the accumulated wisdom of the ages. In Jefferson’s day, only a tiny elite had access to the world of learning. Today, thanks to the Internet, we can open up that world to all of our fellow citizens. We have the technical means to make Jefferson’s dream come true, but do we have the will? Read more…http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2010/oct/28/can-we-create-national-digital-library/

What Libraries Can (Still) Do James Gleick

Deutsches Historiches Museum/Arne Psille/Art Resource Heinrich Lukas Arnold: The Reading Room, circa 1840

Of the many institutions suffering through the world’s metamorphosis from analog to digital (real to virtual, offline to online), few are as beleaguered as that bedrock of our culture, the public library. Budgets are being slashed by state and local governments. Even the best libraries are cutting staff and hours. Their information desks are seemingly superseded by Google, their encyclopedias are gathering dust. And their defining product, the one that lines their shelves, now arrives in the form of a weightless doppelgänger that doesn’t require shelves.

In the technocracy, all the world’s information comes to us on screens—desk, pocket, wrist, goggles—and no one trudges through wind and rain with library card in hand to find a single worn object. After all, when you want the text of Magna Carta, you don’t track down the original. Same with books? “Libraries are screwed,” said Eli Neiburger, a Michigan library director, in a much-quoted presentation at a Library Journalconference in 2010. “Libraries are screwed because we are invested in the codex, and the codex has become outmoded.”

So is the library, storehouse and lender of books, as anachronistic as the record store, the telephone booth, and the Playboy centerfold? Perversely, the most popular service at some libraries has become free Internet access. People wait in line for terminals that will let them play solitaire and Minecraft, and librarians provide coffee. Other patrons stay in their cars outside just to use the Wi-Fi. No one can be happy with a situation that reduces the library to a Starbucks wannabe.

Perhaps worst of all: the “bookless library” is now a thing. You can look it up in Wikipedia.

Read more:http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/oct/26/what-libraries-can-still-do-bibliotech/

Why We Miss the First Sale Doctrine in Digital Libraries

By on March 8, 2013 Leave a Comment

From

 

This is the fourth in an occasional series of articles that will explore issues surrounding the efforts to launch and expand the Digital Public Library of America.

 


 

John PalfreyPublishers, ebook vendors, and libraries are engaged in a “tug of war” over the lending of electronic books, according to Library Journal’s recent ebook survey. This clash inhibits most libraries from fulfilling their important institutional missions to provide access to knowledge and preserve our cultural heritage. In the best case, this tug of war will be a temporary struggle. The best outcome is not a winner who holds all the rope and another lying on the ground with rope-burned hands. If there must be a winner of any kind, it ought to be the reading public.

 

In this article, the fourth installment in a series on the initiative to build a Digital Public Library of America, I examine the underlying role of law in the ebook lending debate, explore potential solutions to the problems, and consider how the DPLA can contribute to solutions for those we serve. At the core of this issue is the way the copyright law works–or doesn’t–when it comes to books, libraries, and readers in the United States today and into the future. Read more…

 

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BeerBrarian: Open Access: A World Without Database Vendors?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Open Access: A World Without Database Vendors?

As a thought experiment, let’s say we “win.” Professional and academic associations go open access, as much of physics has. The Directory of Open Access Journals is able to capture the far majority of these newly free works, and in turn these are snapped up by library catalogs thanks to link resolvers and discovery services. The same happens with the Directory of Open Access Books with regards to chapters in edited volumes.

But there’s a catch: DOAJ’s search function is not, to put it politely, robust. And there’s a larger problem behind search functionality thanks to incomplete metadata. Link resolvers and discovery services that pull from that search, culling that metadata, will lead to frustrated end users who cannot access and discover what they’re looking for.

In addition, the DOAJ is overrun with new items to catalog in this scenario, creating a backlog of epic proportions. Read more…

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