Jessamyn West on the value of libraries:
My Jessamyn corollary to this is “With enough libraries, all content is free.” That is to say… if the world was one big library and we all had interlibrary loan at that library, we could lend anything to anyone.
Be sure to read the whole thing. It reminds me of a 2002 piece by Tim O’Reilly that made an impact on me, Piracy is Progressive Taxation.
February 4, 2010 at 10:42 am
This is the huge dilemma facing libraries at the moment. We loosely define our patron/funding base in terms of geopolitical regions [towns where I live, but states and nations too] and our information easily crosses those boundaries. We pay our vendors according to those outlines and yet we can easily email or fax or postal-mail a document to anywhere in the world.
One of the databases that I use regularly — one the state of Vermont pays for so that all VT libraries can use — now has MP3s of many of their articles available for download. I, of course, downloaded audio copies of all the articles I’d written. I’d love to put them online. I’m fairly certain I can’t… but not totally sure why.
Generally speaking all librarians use this “back-channel ILL” feature and share content with each other, but it’s trickier providing our patrons with access to this wealth of content. But making arbitrary divisions of who gets it and who doesn’t get it just seems … arbitrary. And vendors are scared but haven’t come up with a more decent and rational pricing scheme encouraging [to me] more end running in order to solve problems. Tricky times. Glad you liked the post.