access barriers…will accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of
the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich, make this literature as useful
as it can be, and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common
intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.”6 The most creative uses of
our shared cultural heritage can only occur, however, if the public has the ability
to access and use public domain source materials without onerous permissions
processes or the imposition of fees. Therefore, in the spirit of the Berlin
Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities,
all non-commercial users should have “a free, irrevocable, worldwide, right of
access to, and a license to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work
publicly and to make and distribute derivative works, in any digital medium for
any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship.”7 If fees are
to be assessed for the use of digitized public domain works, those fees should
only apply to commercial uses. Cornell University Library recently lifted all
restrictions on the use of its public domain reproductions.8
Building Digital Communities
As we move to digitize special collections on a massive scale, we should not
ignore the broader ecosystem of the Internet that incorporates social networking
in the use of content, as exemplified by Wikipedia and Flickr Commons.
Providing effective digital access to the treasures of research libraries will
require us to appreciate—and accommodate—digital communities. Research
libraries have the opportunity to build community around content, to build
content around community, and to provide a home for digital creators. Several
examples illustrate these points.
FamilySearch.org is a service provided by the Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-Day Saints. This Web site provides a gateway to the millions of
genealogical records that the church has gathered and made available,
increasingly online. In early 2006, FamilySearch.org provided an online tool for
volunteers to index digital images of vital records. In April 2009, a major
milestone was reached when the 250-millionth record was indexed by one of the
over 100,000 volunteers from around the world. Each record is actually indexed
by two individuals for accuracy, with discrepancies checked by a third person.
Currently, FamilySearch.org reports that volunteers are indexing over a million
names per day.9
Mass digitization requires mass metadata creation and, by
building digital communities around content, the work is being done quickly.
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The Collaborative Imperative: Special Collections in the Digital Age
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C O N T I N U E D
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DECEMBER 2009 RESEARCH LIBRARY ISSUES: A BIMONTHLY REPORT FROM ARL, CNI, AND SPARC
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