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Summit calls for more online access to library materials

by Chris DeFrancesco - October 14, 2008

Provost Peter J. Nicholls was one of three leaders of major universities calling for more library materials to be distributed online without prohibitive charges, during a summit held on Sept. 24 and 25 at the Boston Public Library.

Nicholls, together with Mark Huddleston, president of the University of New Hampshire, and Jack Wilson, president of the University of Massachusetts, called for new approaches to the digitization of library collections to allow access for all.

They voiced concerns about restrictions on the use of public domain works that are being scanned by commercial interests from library collections at other institutions, and challenged fellow university and library administrators, educators, and public interest advocates to join with the nonprofit world, the government, and business partners to ensure that the fruits of human knowledge and human culture are freely available to people everywhere.

The meeting was organized by the Boston Library Consortium (BLC), in cooperation with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The summit included presentation of a white paper, “Free Our Libraries! Why We Need a New Approach to Putting Library Collections Online,” that was commissioned by BLC.

The paper – available at www.blc.org – challenges libraries to devise new funding strategies, coordinate their actions, and adopt forward-looking principles to guide their digitization.

The BLC, the first large-scale library consortium to self-fund digitization of its members’ collections, also announced that it has pledged an additional million dollars to the project, bringing the total BLC funding to $2 million since it began in 2007.

“What was once seemingly impossible is now attainable, given today’s technologies,” said Brinley Franklin, UConn’s vice provost of University Libraries and president of the BLC.

“The 20 BLC members, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Internet Archive, the Boston Public Library, and the Open Content Alliance have blazed a trail for other libraries, museums, and cultural institutions to follow, as we work collectively and collaboratively to make the world’s knowledge accessible to everyone, unrestricted by choice of technology, geographic location, or socio-economic status.”

The BLC is an association of 20 academic and research libraries located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.


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