Precursors to the Universal Digital Library?–Maybe so.

July 21, 2007 at 11:03 pm

Out of town for a few days, I got back and while reading my RSS feeds, I saw mentions of the Open Content Alliance and Open Library project and the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine from Search Engine Watch and the ResourceShelf posts. I was very interested and happy to see more people talk about what the Internet Archive has been and is currently doing in regard to their free digital library collections and their efforts with the Open Library initiative.

Back last year, I published an article within MultiMedia & Internet@Schools magazine entitled “The Changing Face of the Scholarly Web” about the free quality full text resources that were available to us then. I have since presented on the topic (mid-April 2007) and updated my Filamentality site on the topic, providing over 25 resources for full text articles, books, and other multimedia content, to include the IA and Open Content Alliance sites mentioned above. I hope you check these sites out (see excerpts from my article below), as well as others within my article and/or site and that you find these useful to explore and share.

* The Internet Archive (IA) []. The Internet Archive, mentioned several times earlier in this article, is widely known for its Wayback
Machine service, allowing us to “visit” older versions of Web sites by typing in a URL. However, IA offers so much more, such as moving images, live music, audio, and text archives. The site truly is “building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form.” Like a paper library, the site provides “free access to researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.” You really should take the time to browse this site, and fairly often—I love it!

* The Open Content Alliance []. “The Open Content Alliance represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content. The OCA was conceived by the Internet Archive and Yahoo! in early 2005 as a way to offer broad, public access to a rich panorama of world culture.” Right now, other partners include Adobe, HP, MSN, the European Archive, O’Reilly Media, RLG, the University of California, the University of Toronto, and many others—and the list keeps growing!

What is mentioned in my article, hinted at within my Filamentality site, is that we all need to stay alert to and share the results of the search leaders and digitization entrepreneurs who continually provide us with free digital materials and improved means of locating, storing, and sharing this info. My clear favorite is the Internet Archive, and I know that with them leading the efforts working behind the scenes, the Open Content Alliance will produce fruit. The Internet Archive site and the Open Content Alliance may even become the precursors to the universal digital library, freely available to all. Below is an except from my article’s conclusion which I still believe holds true today:

In his May 18, 2006, SearchDay article “Building the Universal Library,” Chris Sherman noted that “building a Universal Library is a huge undertaking, and not just because the physical effort of scanning tens of millions of books is in itself such a massive task. Once scanned, the books must be indexed and made searchable, all the while respecting the copyrights of books not yet in the public domain” (#1314). Obviously, we have a long way to go before we have anything even resembling a “universal library” of books, articles, and/or even multimedia content. However, Kelly quotes Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, who believes that “this is our chance to one-up the Greeks [i.e., Royal Library of Alexandria, 3rd century B.C.]! It is really possible with the technology of today, not tomorrow. We can provide all the works of humankind to all the people of the world. It will be an achievement remembered for all time, like putting a man on the moon.”

I am thrilled, as you can see, with the efforts of the Internet Archive with its captured Webpage archive, as well as its moving images, live music, audio recordings, and full text documents archives. Brewster Kahle and the Internet Archive are on the right track. Check out the Archive and their initiatives–you will be amazed.

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