Digital Public (and University) Libraries

The Digital Libraries Now blog provided a link to this post from the Public Library Association blog of the ALA about a recent meeting of the National Digital Public Library initiative that I found interesting. It deals with public libraries, but I think that any library that deals with the public, be it public, school, university or special, should be interested in creating an accessible digital library (and making sure the Internet Archive has a preservable hard copy of any material in it).

I found one of the comments especially thought provoking.

Olga K.:

The longer I sit at the reference desk in my public library the more I realize that a trained paraprofessional could, for the most part, do this as well as I could.  [Hey!  I resemble that remark.  I”M a trained (para) professional] Blasphemy!

In fact, I think my time would be better spent providing targeted research assistance to citizens and scholars on a drop-in basis. Likewise, as you say, perhaps too, it would be better spent fact-checking the City Council, supporting local non-profits, and working on mash-ups of our collections and the collections of the people in my community.

Instead of helping people find where S is in the fiction, I can direct the digitization, indexing, and proliferation of our local history collection, and maybe, just maybe, write some local history myself. Librarians need to be creators, not just stewards. It’s all about how to use our time to maximize impact on the community.

Let’s see librarians create content, work with library patrons, and advertize that they can provide “targeted research assistance” to the public, whatever that public may be. Let staff be a conduit between patrons and librarians and provide a base for this interaction between librarians and the public. Take your ideas where you find them, whether from the 11 year old who wants interactive charts of the family of Warrior Cats from her favorite series to the Master Gardener who is interested in working to make a virtual garden available. Keep libraries relevant in the 21st century.

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