A National Digital Library: Is It Possible?

Robert Darton, a historian who directs the Harvard University Library, is the leader of a campaign aimed at creating a National Digital Library. As users expect an increasing amount of content to be available, for free, on the internet, Darton thinks a National Digital Public Library is inevitable.

The unique advantage of a digitalized public library, says Darton, is to give all people access to the wealth of resources held in the country’s libraries, museums, universities, and archives through “an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources.” The digital resources available currently are expansive, but “It simply is not true that everything is now on the Internet, but it is true that the wdigital resources available through the Internet have enormous potential for education and even for self-empowerment of individuals.”

Similar to the online education format which provides students with access to a collegiate experience from anywhere via their computer, a National Digital Library would allow users to access library collections from across the nation. With a digital library of this magnitude, users in Maine could access library resources from California and vice versa. Anonlineor ground school student in Ohio could have access to a rare, antiquated textbook only available in Texas.

The desirability of such a library is not the problem, claims Darton, instead, getting online search engines like Google or Yahoo who have spent millions digitalizing books to turn over their files for a non-profit library may be difficult. Copyright laws, which outdate Al Gore, the internet and E-books, could also prove tricky. It’s clear that a great deal of support will need to be mobilized within Washington and across the country for the national library digitalization projectto go forward.

Emily writes about Online Education for University-bound.com – a resource site for those interested in earning a degree online.

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