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.
...and thengoes on to announceways in which RLG are engaging. This isexactlythe sort of thing that should be done with our big databases of bibliographic data; open them up, and use them to empower the efforts of others.
“A plan [discussed on this blogbefore] by the European Commission to digitise the contents of Europe's libraries has been branded a threat to copyright laws by the Federation of European Publishers.”
So they're being even-handed in their knee-jerk lashing out against progress and increased access to information. Well,that'sreassuring.
Google Print isn't planning to allow Internet users to read an in-copyright work from cover to cover online; they're going to offer options tobuyor (hopefully)borrowa copy, raising awareness of currently under-read works.
No organisation has a right to exist. No organisation has a right to their ancient business model. The world moves on. Move on too, or get out of the way.
There is scope for making money from the publication of other people's creative endeavours. There is undoubtedly a requirement to protect the rights of those creative individuals over a reasonable period of time. But locking 'published' content away and making itharderto access at the same time as so much else becomeseasierseems a sure way to have the world decide that you're increasingly irrelevant.
The existingEnquireservice, which I've talked aboutbefore, is now joined byDiscoverandRead. Of these, Discover is the main topic of this post, but I may come back to the others in future...
The original People's Network rollout saw 32,000 computers installed in libraries, those libraries connected to the Internet, and library staff trained to support the use of ICT by their patrons. It represented an all-too-rare Government IT success, delivered on time and within budget, andused(with 11.7 million sessions in 2003).
The People's NetworkServiceis an attempt to gather a number of resources that users of the equipment might wish to access in order to learn or develop, and to offer meaningful access to them.
The basic search interface is simple, although content sources are currently somewhat limited. It's early days, and more content will presumably be added, but some work may be required to clean up the results screens as the number of hits rises. Using one of the site's example searches, 'festival of britain', returns 1,327 results with no obvious way to sort or rank them.
Alongside search, the site offers a (currently) limited personalisation capability, where a registered user can include web feeds from theBBCor24 Hour Museumon their Discovery Service home page. A demonstration of capability, certainly. But arethoseresources useful inthiscontext?
Also included are an organised set of 'Quicklinks'. These will help some users, no doubt, but I didn't like thehierarchy, and was disappointed that clicking on asubjectsimply returned a list of links to other web sites... without any explanation as to what I might find there. What about theRDN? What about the work the BBC has been doing with its search engine? What aboutYahoo!? Any of these could surely offer a far richer experience in this space. It struck me as no better than the lists of web links that most libraries started hand-crafting during the nineties; exactly the trend that the RDN was established to counter.
The final major function is the “Find a library” capability. As those who've been reading for a while will know, the sector's truly dismal showing in this area has been a long-standinggripeofmine. And, the developers will be pleased to know, “Find a library”canfind the local library in Pocklington, so that's good. Never being satisfied for long, though, can I please have a map to show me how to get there, and maybe a search box into the library catalogue?
So, what do I think overall?
It's a good start, and may very well grow to become a useful service.But, and it's a big 'but', the whole presentation is far too “Destination Site” for my liking.Whydo I have to go there to search across all this stuff?Whydo I have to go there to find a library?Whycan't I find a library, and then easily find the nearest bus stop or car park? Or their doubtless limited opening hours?
The underlying services point to functions that are of value, but they're of value in a whole host of locations (thehome pageorportalof your local library or council, where you're sitting on a People's Network machine, for example - with familiarcouncilbranding and integration withlocalservices and language that mean far more to you than some fuzzy Government organisation in London, of which you've never heard).
Disaggregate, please. There's good stuff here. I just wish it weren'tonlyhere, and that it plugged more easily into similar efforts by others. How many Destinations can a person have at any one time, and why are none of them even close to being comprehensive?
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?