I really enjoyed this article about Google buying up the Paper of Record digital news archives and then “disappearing” it somehow. The timeline is a little unclear and it’s back online for now, but as Google figures out how to monetize it and researchers yowl about lack of access, it raises some pretty interesting issues about scholarship. As information ownership changes hands — and I think if we weren’t talking about Google here we’d be talking about someone else, so it’s not really about them — data can literally disappear either behind a paywall or just gone. Particularly poignant in this case is the comment (sorry no permalink) on the Inside Higher Ed story by Bob Huggins the original founder/creator of the archive discussing what’s happening with the archive now.
When exactly does the cat fight end? It slays me to see the great American Us versus Them debate rage on( I comment as a Canadian). As person who pioneered the digitization of newspapers in the world with our company, Cold North Wind, I fail to see how this acrimony between Academics and Google helps ‘joe public’ access the public record. I have stated on numerous occasions that the newspaper represents ‘our’ only record of daily public life for the past 500 years with a special emphasis on the word “public”… I have been through the grinding wheels of both Google and many public institutions whose goal it seems is to preserve and present history from Newspapers. Both have let me down.
I had been holding off on linking to the Web Tech Guy and Angry Staff Person video/blog post because I have mixed feelings about the idea generally even though I know it was a big hit when they showed it off at the conference. Then it hit MetaFilter and I found the discussion there helped me not only flesh out my own feelings about it but gave me a look into how other professionals from different perspectives saw it. Most notably, I was interested in this comment by Larry Cebula who works for Washington State and runs an award-winning northwest history blog.
I work for the Washington State Digital Archives. We have something like 80 million documents, mostly from Washington State counties, online and add millions more per month. After years of resistance the counties are really hopping aboard and have become great fans of our service.
But still we get these complaints and worries. It is even worse with archives than museums because so many county and local archives count on revenues for access to fund their offices. We are about to put up thousands of cases from county courts, some dating back to the late 1800s. But the county insists that we display only the top half of the first page of each record–and charge 25 cents a page for users to even view the records beyond that first half page! It is anti-democratic and eliminates many of the potential advantages of digital history, but there you have it.
Slightly related librarian topic over at AskMetaFilter, a question about questions: What questions do library users most often ask?
Just got this in my inbox this morning and figured I’d share. I edited a little bit and added some hyperlinks, also suggested that BPL needs an announcement blog along the lines of the nifty one at NYPL Labs.
Hi Jessamyn and Alison,
Thanks for blogging about our Flickr presence last week… your influence was greatly felt (to the tune of 2,500 hits on the day of your post, with virtually no other publicity at all).
I wanted to let you know about a couple of this week’s developments:
- In response to comments on Jessamyn’s blog, we’ve gone ahead and opened up all of our items to tags and comments from any Flickr user; we welcome/encourage/request any and all submissions. We’ve made the photo titles more meaningful as well, instead of simply using our digital accession numbers.
- In addition to the 1,227 items posted last week, we’ve added 4,523 really cool vintage postcards of New England, geotagged by the location pictured (and therefore viewable on our map). It’s so cool that I’d probably lose a lot of productive time playing with this stuff if it weren’t my actual job to play with this stuff.
- We’ve got two or three more collections identified for uploading in the very near future, with plenty more to come after that.
- We’re still waiting to see if Flickr will let us use the “No known copyright restrictions” license that they created for the Flickr Commons pilot project.
If you feel like any of this is newsworthy enough to treat your readers to a followup, we can always use a little pre-launch publicity. :-) Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you both posted as the project continues to grow.
Michael B. Klein
Digital Initiatives Technology Librarian
A President’s Day link for you. An NPR story about some recently surfaced photos of Lincoln’s inauguration, via MetaFilter.
The Library of Congress had discovered unseen photos of President Abraham Lincoln’s second inauguration. They’d been housed at the library for years, hidden by an error in labeling.
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.