National digital libraries should be like the brick-and-mortar variety—serving everyone, not just academics and the like. I myself have been preaching this message since the early 1990s, most recently on the Atlantic’s Web site.
So I was pleased to read Natasha Singer’s thoughtful New York Times article, Playing Catch-Up in a Digital Library Race, where she quoted Jill Cousins, the executive director of the Europeana library portal.
As reported in the Times, Ms. Cousins says that “the great American research libraries could do much more than simply increase access to scans of scholarly material.
“’What’s sort of missing is digitization of the accessible literature,’ like the popular novels and biographies readers seek at brick-and-mortar public libraries, she says. A few institutions, like the National Library of Norway, are already venturing into this area, via novel arrangements with copyright holders.
“’It would be nice to conceive of something bigger that has more to do with the public good than with the academic side of the equation,’ Ms. Cousins says.”
Ideally Harvard’s national digital library initiative (also mentioned in the Times) will be able to address the questions that Ms. Cousins, LibraryCity coordinator Tom Peters and I are raising and go for a true public library approach.
Meanwhile I’m delighted to learn that the initiative is open to participation by public librarians, including on the steering committee.
- Related writings
- ‘The most urgent digital library needs are those of Lady Gaga and the Kardashians’
- LibraryCity’s Baltimore Sun commentary on digital libraries: Will the New York Times’s Friedman and other pundits connect the dots?
- For ALL—rural and urban, rich and poor
- One Rx if publishers won’t deal with libraries fairly: Grow your own content and gain more clout