Digital archives contain a wealth of interesting images and documents that have been meticulously described by librarians, but databases are not always ideal for browsing. Tools such as time line and mapping software now enable libraries to present digital collections in new ways, facilitating serendipitous exploration for researchers.
John van Whye, a senior lecturer at the National University of Singapore, has digitally reconstructed the library used by Charles Darwin during his five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle, making it accessible to Darwin scholars and others studying that period in history. He said that this library, which has not existed as a collection for almost 180 years, is what he would have liked as a scholar when he was editing Darwin’s Beagle field notebooks in 2006.
Looking back, the irony is so heavy-handed that it seems contrived. As my colleagues and I were preparing for our MOOC on Copyright for Educators and Librarians, which launched for the first time last week, the only resource that we wanted to use but could not successfully negotiate the permission for was Susan Bielstein’s book about negotiating permissions. It would have been great for us and, I am convinced, for the Press if we could have offered a single chapter of it for our over 8,000 MOOC participants to read. In the event, however, we rediscovered the fear and lack of sound business sense that grips the publishing industry, but also discovered the richness of the free resources that were available to us.
Last month I enjoyed the distinct privilege of keynoting the Conference for Law School Computing (also known as “CALIcon”), a gathering of legal educators, law librarians, and IT professionals in law put together by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). I can’t say enough in praise of the ever-present spirit of sly spirited fun at this conference.
In response to my column a few months ago on ebooks and the demise of ILL, I received a depressing email from an independent scholar noting the numerous obstacles he faces because of the increasing restrictions on access to ejournals and now ebooks. He wrote that he lives near a major public university in the southeast and has been using the university library for years. Despite being publicly funded (at least as much as any state university is publicly funded these days), the library has restricted access to all the databases only to university affiliates with IDs, which means most of the journals are inaccessible to guests. And with the increasing licensing of ebooks, more and more books are inaccessible as well.
Library ebook transactions remain too lengthy and complicated for patrons, especially in comparison with consumer ebook transactions, James English, product manager for the Library Simplified project at the New York Public Library (NYPL) said during his “EPUB: Walled Gardens and the Readium Foundation” presentation at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Eighth Annual Forum, held June 27 in conjunction with the American Library Association (ALA) 2014 Annual Conference. The group is working to make an open, commercial-grade ereader for libraries that would greatly simplify this process.
After complaints from patrons about the lack of access to ebooks in libraries across the state, Connecticut lawmakers have passed a bill giving the state library’s board of trustees authority to create a state-wide ebook collection, accessible by anyone with a Connecticut library card.
One year after the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, the city’s libraries and cultural institutions are helping to preserve this painful moment in recent history and helping local residents reflect. Eight libraries and archives, as part of the #BostonBetter consortium, hosted events and exhibits or opened special hours in recognition of the anniversary. Others began working almost immediately after last year’s Marathon to preserve the memories and associated artifacts of the people who experienced the bombings.