14 December 02004

21st Century library services

Yesterday was a big day for announcements about online access to the resources and services you would normally get in a library. The one that has got most attention is Google's press release that they will be providing searchable access to the full text of library books old enough to be no longer under copyright (and possibly out of print) as well as short excerpts of copyrighted works. The agreement with Google is non-exclusive, so in theory Microsoft, Yahoo! etc could develop competing services. The best in-depth features I've found on this are those in the New York Times and John Battelle's Searchblog.

Perhaps less eye-catching, but also interesting, is the announcement that the People's Network Online Enquiry Service will deliver a real-time information service to the public by providing 'live' access to library and information professionals online 24/7. Which sounds a bit like the equivalent of National Health Service Direct to meet all UK citizens' information needs. Here are the details of the Enquiry Service that will operate from March 02005, and according to this information, "the purpose of this service is to provide you with fast and easy access to guidance from trained library staff in your pursuit of information online". [Update 27 May 02005: The service is now operational — see my review comments]

Put these two developments together and you've got a very powerful service, accessible — free at the point of use — to anyone with an Internet terminal. That's real progress in itself. As more music and films eventually fall out of copyright and are properly tagged with metadata, then with time (and a lot of work) it will get even better.

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Curatorial, E-learning on 14 December 02004 | TrackBack
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