That’s been my goal since the early 1990s when I first proposed a national digital library system well integrated with local schools and public libraries. Nowadays I actually favor two separate but tightly intertwined systems, one public, one academic, since many of their priorities so starkly differ.
Over the weekend, the Washington Post published a must-read for DPLA leaders and others: As demand for e-books soars, libraries struggle to stock their virtual shelves.
“Want to take out the new John Grisham?” wrote Staff Writer Christian Davenport. “Get in line. As of Friday morning, 288 people were ahead of you in the Fairfax County Public Library system, waiting for one of 43 copies. You’d be the 268th person waiting for "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," with 47 copies. And the Steve Jobs biography? Forget it. The publisher, Simon & Schuster, doesn’t make any of its digital titles available to libraries.” As I write this, the e-book piece is the most popular local article on the Washington Post Web site.
Here’s my very friendly suggestion for the DPLA. Get hopping on this issue before others—either OverDrive, 3M, other private companies, or rival nonprofits—preempt you. The DPLA already knows about it. But now the media and public are starting to wake up.
The DPLA Technical Aspects Workstream should schedule a special session ASAP to correct the so-far-glaring deficiencies in the contemplated services for public libraries and schools. The Audience and Participation session set for February in Dallas, and limited to only 20 or so participants in person, isn’t enough. Same for the Content and Scope Workstream, also holding a session soon. E-library suggestions are meaningless without a good technological vision. I’d like to see public and academic library systems share not just gig after gig of content but also a common technical organization that could address issues ranging from servers and archiving to end-user hardware and connectivity alliances. Ideally I could be at all the related sessions to discuss the relevant details in two recent LibraryCity essays: Toward an e-library ecosystem: Public libraries will screw themselves if they don’t learn from Amazon’s comprehensive ‘seamless’ approach and The hotspot strategy: Cost-justifying free tablet computers for low-income library users.
At least one leader of the DPLA Tech Workstream has already read the WaPo article (and earlier acknowledged that there was more to be done in the public library area), and you can bet I’ll be forwarding the Web address of this LibraryCity post to him and to people with A&P and Content and Scope. I would much rather that the DPLA remove “Public” from its name, so as not to harm the franchise and branding of brick-and-mortar public libraries. But the DPLA’s baffling insistence on the P Word—regardless of the negative reaction last spring from the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies—is all the more reason for the DPLA to act. I’d really like for the DPLA to succeed. More attention paid to public library needs would help both library-users and this worthy organization.
- DPLA now considering separate academic and public library systems, and meanwhile the first Beta Sprint deadline is nearing—June 15
- National Digital Public Library conference: A little progress toward a two-system approach—to help both public and academic libraries?
- Smug about OverDrive? A whopping 39 percent of U.S. public libraries don’t offer downloadable e-books. Does D.C. care? E-textbooks are no substitute, Mr. President
- Jim Duncan, Colorado Library Consortium executive director, speaks out in LibraryCity series on public libraries and the Digital Public Library of America
- DPLA still clinging to ‘Public’ in name—despite risks to the franchise and branding of America’s public libraries