While choosing a new library as priority, Fernandina Beach needs to look into how libraries will function in a technologically advanced future.
While the wise people that run our city have made it one of their 5 top priorities to build a new library according to the local newsleader, the Open Library project on the internet just announced the launching of an eBook lending program. Patrons of this Internet Archive-led group of libraries may borrow up to five books at a time, for up to two weeks. Like print books, the eBooks may be on loan only to one patron at a time.
The Internet Archive already distributes over 1 million books free in a format called DAISY, designed for those of us who find it challenging to use regular printed media or think that cutting trees to make paper is ultimately self destructive.
There are two types of DAISYs on Open Library: open and protected. Open DAISYs can be read by anyone in the world on many different devices. Protected DAISYs can only be opened using a key issued by the Library of Congress NLS program. Especially physically challenged or handicapped people are eligible for braille and audio books through this system.
Open Library was a project that started out in San Francisco, near Silicon Valley a little less than 4 years ago, but has since crossed the country to Boston and Florida and many points in between.
Just like Wikipedia, anyone can contribute new information or corrections to the catalog, which can be browsed by subject, author or lists, created by members. One web page for every book ever published. It’s a lofty but achievable goal.
To date, the Internet Archive has gathered over 20 million records from a variety of large catalogs as well as single contributions, growing by leaps and bounds. When I was writing this editorial, I saw on their website that an elementary school in Greece was accessing the library in real time. It made me smile, as I keep saying that I have faith in our future, when technology can give us this kind of freedom.
As it obviously states: Open Library is an open project: the software is open, the data are open, the documentation is open, and they welcome your contribution. Whether you fix a typo, add a book, or write a widget – it’s all welcome. They have a small team of fantastic programmers who have accomplished a lot, but invite everyone to contribute as they can’t do it alone!
The Open Library is a project of the non-profit Internet Archive, and has been funded in part by a grant from the California State Library and the Kahle/Austin Foundation.
Less than 4 years ago the idea was born from the following thought:
What if there were a library that held every book? Not every book on sale, or every important book, or even every book in English, but simply every book—a key part of our planet’s cultural legacy.
• First, the library must be on the Internet. No physical space could be as big or as universally accessible as a public web site. The site would be like Wikipedia—a public resource that anyone in any country could access and that others could rework into different formats.
• Second, it must be grandly comprehensive. Even when the full text of a book wasn’t available, it would take catalog entries from every library and publisher and random Internet user who is willing to donate them. It would link to places where each book could be bought, borrowed, or downloaded. It would collect reviews and references and discussions and every other piece of data about the book it could get its hands on.
• But most importantly, such a library must be fully open. Not simply “free to the people,” as the grand banner across the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh proclaims, but a product of the people: letting them create and curate its catalog, contribute to its content, participate in its governance, and have full, free access to its data. In an era where library data and Internet databases are being run by money-seeking companies behind closed doors, it’s more important than ever to be open.
Today even the University of Florida is actively contributing to the List. Says Judy Russell, Dean of University Libraries at the University of Florida, “We have hundreds of books that are too brittle to circulate. This digitize-and-lend system allows us to provide access to these older books without endangering the physical copy.”
This new digital lending system will enable patrons of participating libraries to read books in a web browser. “In Silicon Valley, iPads and other reading devices are hugely popular. Our partnership with the Internet Archive and OpenLibrary.org is crucial to achieving our mission – to meet the reading needs of our library visitors and our community,” said Linda Crowe, Executive Director of the Peninsula Library System.
Digital lending also offers wider access to one-of-a-kind or rare books on specific topics such as family histories – popular with genealogists. This pooled collection will enable libraries like the Boston Public Library and the Allen County Public Library in Indiana to share their materials with genealogists around the state, the country and the world. “Genealogists are some of our most enthusiastic users, and the Boston Public Library holds some genealogy books that exist nowhere else,” said Amy E. Ryan, President of the Boston Public Library. “This lending system allows our users to search for names in these books for the first time, and allows us to efficiently lend some of these books to visitors at distant libraries.”
“Reciprocal sharing of genealogy resources is crucial to family history research. The Allen County Public Library owns the largest public genealogy collection in the country, and we want to make our resources available to as many people as possible. Our partnership in this initiative offers us a chance to reach a wider audience,” said Jeffrey Krull, director of the Allen County Public Library.
So even though I applaud the priority initiative of having a new library to enjoy in our historic community here in Fernandina Beach, I do hope that the physical building will meet the needs of the future. And the future is NOT having thousands of books neatly stacked on shelves. If 5 years is the projected time for realization of the 5 priorities listed, than it should be high on the city’s priority to learn how the world will look 5 years from now, especially when it comes to technological advancements that will reshape the way we use libraries in this case.