Libraries, oh libraries, where to begin?

Did you know there’s a steering committee for a Digital Public Library of America?  And they “just announced a “Beta Sprint,” inviting the public to contribute “ideas, models, prototypes, technical tools, user interfaces, etc.” Anyone who wants to take part must submit a statement of interest by June 15, and final submissions are due September 1″ (The Chronicle).

I think that’s exciting, but I personally have no clue as to how I’d organize a public library.  My neighbor is a music librarian, and the glimpse I get into that world (during our weekly jogging sessions) makes me appreciate librarying a lot more.

Whimsical Frog and Toad statues next to the Mountain View Public Library.

Anyway, this year, I was fortunate to experience the wonders of the Mountain View Public Library.  I have been reading so many books, discovering new authors (current author: Kazuo Ishiguro), and taking advantage of its beautiful facilities.  (You can read my review on yelp if you want).  Yet, I do know that despite my more than positive experiences in most of the public libraries in my life (San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, Berkeley!… Palo Alto and Oakland, not so much), there are many libraries out there suffering and crying to be put out of their misery (no amount of funds can fix moldy, sticky, musty, unread books).  So, despite my preference for real libraries to physically visit, I can see the obvious merit of a digital public library.

I wonder how it will work, though, especially with copyright laws and the like.  Also with devices like the kindle, ipad, or even hi-tech cell phones, how will this Digital Public Library be worked out?  Will it be like Amazon Digital Video or Netflix, where your “borrowing” expires?  Will only a few “copies” be available at a time?  How will this affect those ridiculous companies that profit off of college students who need to purchase books?  Also, this is the DPLA, of America.  What happens outside of the US?  Will there be internet blocks that will make the materials inaccessible, or will you have some sort of personal ID identifying you as an American citizen?  Does this mean the rapid downsizing of bookstores?  The demise of pay-t0-use databases (ie: Jstor or MLA International Bibliography)?  Will this become an Marxian attempt at free access to media?  HOORAY!

You know, when I write, I go places.  I could go back and edit this, make it more streamline, circle it back to the points from where I began.  But today, I’ll leave this as it is, and you can navigate your way through the forest of my thoughts.  Be my guest!

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2 responses to “Libraries, oh libraries, where to begin?

  1. They could have a subscription based service with no ads and no trackers plus bells and whistles that make paying money worth it (like search function for the book and bookmarks). And then they could have a free version with ads. lol.

    I feel like after you read a book, you have an urge to discuss it with somebody. Bookstores can still make themselves relevant in the future by hosting talks on selected books.

    • I totally agree with what you have to say about the second part (which is already sort of accomplished through book review sites like goodreads.com), but the first part, even though it’s “reasonable” and probably impending, seems to take the whole value/punch out of a library. You’re not supposed to pay to use a library in the conventional sense; it’s a part of the community, supported by the community, without a hierarchical system for available services.

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