Digital Natives Want It Now!


If you don’t believe me, just listen to this Digital Native.

Abby is from Australia and wants us all to get cracking to make her digital library a reality. [I do wonder how she knows so much about what she wants. Is that another Digital Native trait?]

Unfortunately, there won’t be a Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) in these Digital Natives’ youth. According to Ed Summers’ Blog (he’s a computer code writer at the Library of Congress) INKDROID, the agenda of the recent meeting of DPLA in Amsterdam (not as incongruous as it sounds) was for “The purpose of the May 16 and 17 expert working group meeting, …, is to begin to identify the characteristics of a technical infrastructure for the proposed DPLA.”

Let me reiterate – “begin to identify the characteristics of a technical infrastructure”. Begin to identify by a committee is the same as “We have no clue as to when this might eventually become reality, if ever!”

Summers goes on to write in his May 25 Post,

Prior to the meeting I read the DPLA Concept Note, watched the discussion list and wiki activity — but the DPLA still seemed somewhat hard to grasp to me. The thing I learned at the meeting in Amsterdam is that this nebulousness is by design–not by accident. The DPLA steering committee aren’t really pushing a particular solution that they have in mind. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus about what problem they are trying to solve. Instead the steering committee seem to be making a concerted effort to keep an open, beginners-mind about what a Digital Public Library of America might be.

Let me reiterate again – “In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus about what problem they are trying to solve.” So, all you Digital Natives out there just be patient and hope that there is a Digital Public Library of America for your kids.

One of the major proponents of DPLA is Robert Darnton, award-winning historian, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor at Harvard, and director of the Harvard University Library.

Google demonstrated the possibility of transforming the intellectual riches of our libraries, books lying inert and underused on shelves, into an electronic database that could be tapped by anyone anywhere at any time,” wrote Robert Darnton last December in the New York Review of Books. “Why not adapt its formula for success to the public good,” he asked, “a digital library composed of virtually all the books in our greatest research libraries available free of charge to the entire citizenry, in fact, to everyone in the world?”

This is an interview from March, 2011 about The Digital Public Library of America. (Look for Part 2 on YouTube.)

Does anyone else feel like they are in a slow motion time warp where everything relating to libraries and information access is at least a decade behind where it should be, and moving in slow motion? Maybe it’s the commercial applications, like Darnton acknowledged, of so many advanced technology tools that it makes everything else look like horse and buggy times. It seems that all good ideas and intentions get sidetracked because the librarian profession doesn’t know squat about technology. We better smarten up and catch up!

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Digital Natives Want It Now!

  1. Kimberly

    Questions?
    1) Why was the committee meeting for the DPLof AMERICA in Amsterdam??
    2) Are all the players on the committee pulic librarians or are they academics locking in tenure and the name DPLA like a copyright (even if they don’t know what to do with it?)
    Just wondering….

    • Good questions I should have answered. Thanks for asking.

      Apparently, Amsterdam for a lessons learned approach to getting started and concerns about interoperability with the rest of the world that is much farther down the road than America. “This workshop will examine interoperability of discovery, use, and deep research in existing global digital library infrastructure to ensure that the DPLA adopts best practices in these areas. It will also serve to share information and foster exchange among peers, to look for opportunities for closer collaboration or harmonization of existing efforts, and to surface topics for deeper inquiry as we examine the role linked data might play in a DPLA.

      According to Darnton’s interview the DPLA “group” are “people from foundations, computer scientists, librarians, scholars, leaders of cultural institutions, such as Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives,” which may explain why it will move slowly and contemplatively.

  2. There will never be a virtual library that can compete with a “real” library. Patrons want a place to go and feel comfortable – sometimes it’s school kids needing a place to meet after school. Sometimes it’s a senior citizen just looking for someplace to go for an afternoon. The internet is the internet; libraries are real, physical places to go where there are actual warm bodies to help you and talk to you (we’re called Librarians). Here’s to keeping libraries REAL.

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