By LAURA GOTTESMAN
Brewster Kahle and Toni Carbo were invited to speak as part of the Library of Congress' Luminary Lectures @ Your Library series (www.loc.gov/rr/program/lectures), which was initiated by the Public Service Collections Directorate to bring experts in various areas of librarianship to the Library of Congress to share their expertise with LC staff and other D.C.-area librarians.
The job of librarians is to make the best of universal knowledge, which is now accessible on the Internet, available to young learners, according to Brewster Kahle, digital librarian and director and co-founder of the Internet Archive (www.archive.org). Kahle spoke in late November 2002 before a full house in the Library's Pickford Theater on "Public Access to Digital Materials."
"We're at an interesting turning point," Kahle said. "The traditional role of libraries … preservation and access … enables us to go beyond what we were able to do in the past. Universal access to all human knowledge is within our grasp. Our job is to put the best our world has to offer within the reach of our children."
Kahle began his presentation by describing a recent trip he took around the country with his eight-year-old son in the Internet Archive Bookmobile. They crisscrossed the country, stopping at schools, libraries and museums along the way to print out and bind some of the 20,000 or so public domain books that Kahle says are currently available online. His goal was to draw attention to the Internet as a distribution medium for resources to people who need them. One stop at a school was so successful that it even surprised the teachers. "They thought the kids were not going to be able to read them, [but] the kids stayed for hours. They wanted to make books," he said.
Preservation and access recurred as themes throughout his talk. Kahle proposed that libraries take advantage of new preservation and access technologies to share cultural resources. He said, for example, "Cambodia has lost much of its culture; there are only three certified classical dancers left … but there are Cambodian texts throughout the world. Let's digitize them and give them back.
"I am hoping that libraries on an international scale will engage in data swapping … sharing their resources with other cultures, in other environments," Kahle said. "Libraries are the right civic institutions to do this. They've got money, creative people. Let's bring public access to the public domain."
Kahle said the Library of Congress should lead such efforts. "The world looks to the Library of Congress to solve [these problems]. What the Library does is copied; what the Library doesn't do is copied," he said.
(The Library already is leading such efforts by joining with the national libraries of Russia and Spain to digitize and share historical materials that document parallels in exploration and settlement of frontiers. The Library launched the first such Web site, Meeting of Frontiers, in January 2000; this site continues to expand with materials from collections in the Library and Russian state archives. On March 3, 2000, King Juan Carlos I of Spain and the Librarian of Congress signed a pact by which the Library and the National Library of Spain would collaborate to share their collections electronically to illustrate their common history. The Library is now discussing the possibility of sharing collections electronically with national libraries in Brazil, Italy, and the Netherlands, among others.)
Kahle went on to discuss audio and video formats online, and the promise and constraints of making these materials freely accessible as well. In particular, he mentioned the Prelinger Archives, 48,000 "ephemeral" films recently acquired by the Library of Congress (see www.loc.gov/today/pr/2002/02-106.html), 1,300 of which have been digitized and are freely accessible through the Internet Archive (www.archive.org/movies/prelinger.php). "People are using these materials to write their own stories," Kahle said. "Libraries help people learn … create; help us learn to come to our own conclusions."
Kahle mentioned several recent initiatives in which the Internet Archive is involved that support his vision of what the Internet might someday become, a medium providing unfettered access to materials "of the highest informational value and quality." One is the Million Books Project (http://www.library.cmu.edu/Libraries/LibProj.html#MBP), begun by the Carnegie Mellon University Libraries and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), which will provide access to one million books by 2005. Another is the International Children's Library (see www.icdlbooks.org), which is the product of a collaboration of the University of Maryland, the Internet Archive, the Library of Congress, and the NSF, among others, that has as its ultimate goal to digitize "10, 000 books representing 100 books from 100 cultures around the world." (See related story in this issue on p. 19.)
"The Web is more than most people give it credit for; it is the mother of all media … and the Net is currently where people turn for information resources," Kahle said, "[but] it currently does not contain the best the world has to offer."
An archived version of the cybercast of Kahle's lecture, including slides, is available at www.loc.gov/rr/program/lectures. See www.loc.gov/rr/program/lectures/kahle.html for the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.
Toni Carbo, professor in the School of Information Sciences and the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, and current Madison Council Fellow in Library and Information Science at the John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, presented a lecture in December titled "Information Ethics: Challenges for Library and Information Science Professionals."
"I found I got hooked early on in the field of [information] policy. … It brought me back to some of the concerns I've always had since being a child, of trying to right some of the inequities of the world. … Being very involved in the civil rights movement in the ‘60s, I was concerned about equity of access to information … one of the driving forces of why we need the Internet—why we need to close the digital divide."
Carbo, who is conducting research on information ethics and policy related to electronic government in the United States and the European Union, shared her thoughts on the ethical issues that most librarians are confronting today, because, as she put it, "These issues don't always get the attention they deserve."
"We [librarians] are advocates for our values, and I think if anything, we need to reflect even more on our values and speak up even more loudly as we see so many challenges to our values every day. We need to defend them and continue to earn the trust that's being placed in us."
She identified six trends in the provision of information services that have developed over the past 40 years, which she feels provide a context for understanding recent changes in the profession:
1) A greater focus on delivering individualized services;
2) The increasingly global nature of society, because of the Internet and associated technologies, resulting in a more diverse patron base;
3) The ability to connect across institutions, providing opportunities for interdisciplinary work and other forms of collaboration;
4) The challenge of blending old practices with new technologies;
5) The need for librarians to wear many different hats: as managers, resource procurers, creators/producers, teachers, advisors, preservers of culture, organizers of information, researcher, expert, advocate; and
6) A greater emphasis on trust and the integrity, balance and comprehensiveness of information.
Carbo also identified areas of librarianship and information science in which information ethics plays a key, although often unacknowledged role, such as collection development—making decisions as to "what to add to a collection and what to leave out … sometimes individual beliefs enter into this process … [as well] as external pressures from people who want us to add or exclude information from our collections." Carbo went on to say that the new forms of professional collaboration made possible by the Internet raise increasingly important questions about intellectual property rights and professional standards.
"Our field is one of the most trusted and we have done a lot to earn
and keep the people's trust. … To continue to do this, we have to continue
to strive for integrity for ourselves, [for] the information we provide,
and the institutions where we work."
An archived cybercast of this lecture is available on the Library's Web site at www.loc.gov/rr/program/lectures/carbo.html.
Laura Gottesman is a digital reference specialist in the Public Service Collections Directorate.