Personal perspectives on information science, the evolving Internet, delivery of public services online, Web 2.0, the Web of Data, the Semantic Web, communities, folksonomies and more. With an emphasis upon convergence between some or all of the above, and a UK slant.
WritingonCIE Thoughts, David Dawson draws attention to the European Commission'sconsultationon the European Digital Library, which you'll remember was originally spun (with some truth) as essentially a European-funded French sulk becauseGoogle Printwas too Anglophone. Someone, I think it wasLorcan Dempsey, has mentioned data to me suggesting that an analysis of theunique volumesin the libraries that Google are digitising actually contain a significant quantity of material in languages other than English. Sadly, the lack of Internet access at 10,000m (somewhere north of Hudson Bay, according to the screen at my side) means that such facts are distressingly far from my fingertips as I write... And anyway, the French President clearly wasn't listening to Lorcan (or whoever it was). Silly, really. Ialwayslisten to Lorcan.
Google Print hasslowed downfor now, andYahoo!have also entered the space with theiractive supportfor the newOpen Content Alliance. Is there space for a European-only entrant, and is this a sensible use of public funds when Google and others seem quite happy to invest the contents of their copious bank vaults?
The current Commissiontext[PDF download] appears less jingoistic and rather more sensible than the original Google-bashing. The text talks now of digitallibraries, nota library. It recognises the wealth of work already being done to digitise and provide access to content regionally, nationally, across Europe, and even in partnership with our colleagues elsewhere in the world. There are intimations that effort might be directed to coordinating work already underway, identifying gaps and filling them, rather than building some new white elephant.
It's also interesting to note that one of the Commission's eight questions as part of theconsultation document[PDF download] reads
“What measures could be taken to promote private investments and new business-models such as public-private partnerships for digitising and making historical collections accessible?”
I've got one. WorkwithGoogle. Workwiththe Open Content Alliance. Share effort. Share funds. Ensure you don't all digitise the same book.
The libraries currently working with Google get a copy of the digitised text back, and appear able to do pretty much what they like with it within reason, so these publicly owned books aren'tonlyavailable via the 'evil corporate bogey-man' in Mountain View.
How much more could we achieve by harnessing the clear public and private sector enthusiasm around this space at the moment, rather than bickering over who has the 'right' to do it?
Don't bog the public-privatepartnershipdown in unnecessary bureaucracy. Work out what really matters (a copy of the work, available free at the point of use, and appropriately preserved over the long term) and just make the rest work.
We can do it. Vested interests, isolationists and those who fear or distrust private money will doubtless try to stop us, so we'll just have to not let them.
The Commission has a real opportunity here. I hope they are brave and strong enough to seize it. Many of the people I know who work there certainly are, if they were to be let of the leash.
Anyway. The consultation is open until 20 January next year. Have your say. Consultations such as this tend to receive relatively small numbers of responses. Then, after the fact, everyone moans. You were asked. If you didn't speak up at the time, what right do you have to whine later?