. . LIBRARIES: ELECTRONIC: Inside the Quest to Put the World's Libraries Online . . Inside the Quest to Put the World's Libraries Online July 26 2012, 9:16 AM ETThe Digital Public Library of America wants to make millions of books, records, and images available to any American with an Internet connection. Can it succeed where others have failed?
Esther Yi The Atlantic.http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2012/07/ inside-the-quest-to-put-the-worlds-libraries-online/259967/
. A shorter URL for the above link: . http://tinyurl.com/cgyek4e . .While ambitious, the project was not unprecedented. The creation of a large-scale digital library catering to public access has been attempted for decades, by a cast of characters worth noting. Aside from Google, there's the Internet Archive, a non-profit digital library based in San Francisco that sees itself as a bulwark against a modern-day version of the loss of the Library of Alexandria. Brewster Kahle, who founded the Internet Archive in 1996 and is now on the DPLA steering committee, aims to supplement this digital reserve with a physical copy of every book in existence, collected and stored in a mammoth warehouse in California; he currently has about 500,000 volumes and hopes to reach 10 million one day. His efforts are complemented by the HathiTrust ("Hathi" is the Hindi word for "elephant," an animal that, as the saying goes, never forgets), a digital preservation repository founded in 2008 that has digitized over 10 million volumes contributed by participating research institutions and libraries. The 3 billion-plus pages amount to over 8,000 tons (but weigh close to nothing online, of course). Meanwhile, national institutions like the Library of Congress have been digitizing their in-house materials for years. The DPLA is not the first player to step onto the field.
.But that doesn't make it any less of a milestone. Consider these facts: The Library of Congress, the largest library in the world, added 480,000 books to its collections in the last fiscal year alone, and now boasts more than 34 million books and other print materials. Add other items like maps and manuscripts, and the collection towers at 150 million items. And then there's information stored in digital forms (e-mails, websites, even President Obama's Twitter feed), which compounds things astronomically. Speaking in digital terms, the world produced more data in 2009 than in the entire history of mankind through 2008, according to the former chief scientist at Amazon.com. In one way, this explosion and the digital platforms that support it have been a boon for librarians and archivists, who specialize in collecting information and making it available to users. But in others, it has been a scourge, rendering the goal of staying abreast of the world's intellectual output (not to mention the hardware and software needed to store and display it), more quixotic than ever. Simply to reap the accessibility benefits that the Internet so tantalizingly affords, the centuries-worth of items currently extant only in cloth and paper need to be imaged into bits and bytesa monumental, manpower-intensive, and prohibitively expensive task. And that is to say nothing of figuring how to cull and catalog the terabytes of information that have spent their whole life in digital format. All of which goes to show that the problem of networking the nation's "living heritage" online has barely begun to be addressed. The problem is one of time, money, and most of all, scalemassive scale.
.The DPLA is the most ambitious entrant on the digital library scene precisely because it claims to recognize this need for scale, and to be marshaling its resources and preparing its infrastructure accordingly. With hundreds of librarians, technologists, and academics attending its meetings (and over a thousand people on its email listserv), the DPLA has performed the singular feat of convening into one room the best minds in digital and library sciences. It has endorsement: The Smithsonian Institution, National Archives, Library of Congress, and Council on Library and Information Resources are just some of the big names on board. It has funding: The Sloan Foundation put up hundreds of thousands of dollars in support. It has pedigree: The decorated historian Darnton has the pages of major publications at his disposal; Palfrey is widely known for his scholarship on intellectual property and the Internet; the staging of the first meeting on Harvard's hallowed campus is not insignificant.
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