RootsTech 2014

Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

In defense of libraries

OK, so the comment made to my post about the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) got to me. Here is the comment, it looks like my old friend Anonymous is back:
Isn't this just a duplication though? These books are already freely accessible online and now they are going to be accessible though another site also? In one sense I'd like to see each of these ultra-large repositories hold unique collections. That seems a better use of resources.
Hmm. I suppose that if the New York Public Library has a copy of a book, that the other libraries around the country are wasting their resources by having a copy of the same book? That's what libraries do: make copies of documents available. I would ask the commentator if he or she even knew of the existence of the HathiTrust.org before the person read my post?

You might have noticed that people like big stores with lots of stuff. You may not like Walmart personally, but huge stores attract a lot of customers. In the U.S. up until now, we did not have a national online library initiative such as Trove.nla.gov.au or Europeana.eu. Having an online library is a wonderful opportunity to expand the availability of a lot of records that are scattered around the Internet without any sort of organization. You need to understand that the books in the HathiTrust and other such organizations are not generally available. Any initiative that makes these types of materials more available makes my life as a researcher easier and is welcome.

In a sense an online library is no different than a brick and mortar one. Both require organization, support and the ability to add to their collections. While the physical libraries are losing funding, cutting back hours and laying off employees, it might just be the salvation of our nation to have free online libraries.

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