Libraries’ Surprising Special Collections

Smithsonian magazine wrote a neat article about libraries’ special and interesting collections. Alas, they forgot to include links to any of the cited libraries’ websites. Someone from MetaFilter, actually a librarian pal of mine who works at Harvard, picked up the torch and started a thread with many more excellent examples.

Flickr Commons project – one organization’s report

I wrote a little bit about the Flickr Commons project in an article for Computers in Libraries magazine. You may have seen it mentioned here and elsewhere in library blogland because two prominent libraries, the Library of Congress and Bibliothèque de Toulouse have put collections there. I’m most fond of the Smithsonian’s collection though I pretty much love all of them and love seeing No Known Copyright Restrictions next to all those images. So yay, I love Flickr.

However, a question many people ask is: is this project working to do anything other than give librarians fancy 2.0 tools to use? In a recent lengthy post by another participating cultural heritage organization, The Powerhouse Museum, they explain what the project has done for them. I’ve pulled out a few quotes. [thanks peacay!]

In the first 4 weeks of the Commons we had more views of the photos than the same photos in the entirety of last year on our own website. It wasn’t as if we made the images on our own website all that hard to find – they were well indexed on our own site by Google, they were made available to the national federated image search/repository Picture Australia, and they also existed in our OPAC. Still, that was no match for Flickr.

Whilst some of the information we are learning about the images this way could probably have been discovered by the Museum itself, that the public has been able to do this for us and often within hours of new images going up on to the site speaks volumes… This is also very much about empowering and acknowledging the importance of ‘amateur’ knowledge, which in the networked environment can often outpace, and sometimes outperform, isolated ‘professional’ knowledge.

Tags are easy and we’re treating them just like our other community generated metadata. Now we’ve passed the 3 month mark we’ve pulled all the tags to date back into our own collection database online where they will soon appear alongside the tags that have been on our own site.

can you control public domain images? should you?

Peter Hirtle has a great post over at the LibraryLaw blog about the Smithsonian’s attempt to control reproduction and subsequent use of the materials they have made available digitally and online, many of which are in the public domain. A group called Public Resource decided to push the envelope on the Smithsonian’s terms of service, specifically their copyright notice, and downloaded all 6000+ images and made them available on Flickr where they still are. Hirtle questions the legality of what Public Resource has done, but also questions the copyright that the Smithsonian asserts.

Again, I wish the Smithsonian didn’t try to assert control over its images. And while I think that Public.Resource.Org crossed the line, it is ridiculous that anyone else can now take any of public domain images Public.Resource.Org has distributed and do whatever they want with them. (Any contract limiting use of the images can only be between the Smithsonian and Public.Resource.Org.) That is just one more reason why repositories should focus on providing good services to users, rather than attempting to establish monopoly control over images from their holdings.

Update: I made this for you.

fare yus lol