Ramblings, citations and "brainwaves" of a college librarian in Toronto. 475 square feet refers to the size of my home, not the size of my office or library.

Government Fires a Shot Across the Bow of the Information Industry

E-mail this post

Remember me (?)

All personal information that you provide here will be governed by the Privacy Policy of Blogger.com. More...

While not a new vision or practice, the idea of government (state, provincial, federal, trading block) funded "digital libraries" is begining to gain traction. Under the guise of equalization between haves (university people, business people) and have-nots (high schools, most of the general public), we're seeing more and more ambitious digital libraries 'for the people' planned and develped. A few examples are:

Lois Hole Alberta Digital Library ($30 million, of oil money?)

Canadian National Site Licensing Project

EC Digital Library

Ontario Digital Library

New York Online Virtual Electronic Library

Content licensed from commercial providers is combined with digitized physical holdings no longer under copyright protection. Sounds dreamy right? A movement that will free up over leveraged electronic resource budgets of libraries. Maybe not...

The business plans I've seen thus far require existing libraries to pay a tithe to support the project. The tithe can either be a flat fee on some scale or a scaled fee per information service a library wishes to make available to its user community. The groups that can benefit most from this type of arrangement are those who already are the "haves". The "have-nots" do not have the resources to buy in. If we're going to realize the dream of digital libraries opening up content to everyone, we need projects fully sponsored by government. In any case it will not be cheap, providers will demand more and more as these libraries eventually cut into their profit margins. I'm not sure this model is sustanable for current content (say less than 3 years old).

I would rather see universal index access via Google Scholar or something better, with national clearinghouses for purchasing full-text, be it 3 or 5$ per article. Libraries could buy bundles of "downloads" to make available to their patrons (a set amount for each person). When the bundles run out, you could buy more yourself. Anything older than 3 years would be available in full-text in traditional information services like Elsevier, EBSCO, ProQuest, CSA, etc. Lets face it, the money is in current materials not archives. Current materials have more value than older materials, I don't think it should be one access model for all full-text content.

Previous posts


What do I do with ATOM?