National Digital Public Library conference: A little progress toward a two-system approach—to help both public and academic libraries?

Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive has a post at Publishersweekly.com on the need for libraries and their users to enjoy access to digital titles. But here’s what also caught my eye—his mention of a digital conference this week for public libraries.

Let’s hope that one result of the National Digital Public Library conference (Nov. 15-17, agenda here) will eventually be a separate national digital library system reflecting the priorities of public libraries but still sharing plenty of resources with the more academically oriented Digital Public Library of America, such as a common technical organization.

No guarantees this will happen. One participant from the Boston public library has gone out of his way to say the NDPL conference is not an organization, that the NDPL is just a description, that he envisions it “dovetail[ing] into” the DPLA. In fact, the conference from afar looks like a DPLA outreach effort even though this isn’t the case: a Los Angeles public librarian originated the idea before he knew of the DPLA. But if nothing else, I’m glad to see public libraries receiving more attention, especially from DPLA’s funders at the Sloan Foundation. Also, I like the idea of bridges between the publics and academics and was glad that John Palfrey, chair of the DPLA, had addressed the NDPL conference.

That said, I was disappointed that admission to the conference in L.A. was by “invitation only” (an online forum is no substitute). Let’s hope that will change. The DPLA’s plenary conference last month was wide open, and ideally the same will apply to all future gatherings of this nature. Public library-related business needs to be public.

Regardless of the above, who can disagree with a statement from Martín J. Gómez, general manager and city librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library?

“The idea for this conference came from my concern about the need for public libraries to be a greater part of any plan to create a digital library future. Public libraries have content that needs to be digitized and made more widely accessible. We also, as part of our collective mission, have an obligation to ensure that the interests of the diverse communities we serve are represented in the planning for any digital future.”

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