Libraries as Platforms

14 Sep 2012

Cross-posted on digitalcultureweek.

In a recent article on libraries as platforms, David Weinberger envisions that, similar to Facebook opening its API to developers in 2007, libraries would provide access to everything they have - books and online content, metadata, and conversations about that content, in an effort to develop knowledge and community. Such an idea is not radical and is essentially at the core of libraries - any citizen can check out Huck Finn to read for fun, for a research article on Mark Twain, or to use as a text for a discussion group. In fact, many are currently working on technical solutions to the ideas Weinberger outlines, such as linked open data and the University of Rochester's eXtensible Catalog. Of course, part of the reason we're not yet there is that libraries don't own (in the sense of copyright) all of their content and thus can't do as they please with it, and most libraries don't have the resources for a for a research and development unit (a library lab or a skunkworks team) dedicated to finding innovative solutions.

The idea of a library platform with individual libraries as nodes within a larger network is similar to the DPLA's move toward hubs. Each DPLA hub will contribute metadata under a CC0 license (i.e. no restrictions whatsoever) and preferably for "Green Light" content that resolves to already accessible digital content. After all, there's no need to duplicate what the Web as a platform has already accomplished. Similarly, one idea recently put forth is for the DPLA to work with institutional repositories to aggregate and spotlight existing collections. As libraries move toward a more networked platform model and leverage the wealth of existing collections, using the DIKW hierarchy, it seems that the library becomes less preoccupied with collecting data and information and more interested in mechanisms that facilitate the creation of knowledge and wisdom.

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