What kind of national digital library system—or systems, plural—should the U.S. create? Read Parts One and Two of a new series where Jim Duncan, executive director of the Colorado Library Consortium delves into the major issues.
Is the Harvard-incubated Digital Public Library of America the solution with its “one big tent” approach for public and academic libraries? With museums even included?
Or do we need intertwined but separate public and academic systems, so literacy issues, K-12 needs, related digital divide matters, and other national concerns do not fall through the cracks? Could a national digital library endowment, started mostly with philanthropic donations to get around the current fiscal mayhem in Washington, be among the revenue sources for both systems?
How to balance different priorities? Should digital libraries primarily be virtual places for scholarship and high culture? Or should they also be potential life-changers in an America where, as of a year ago, nearly one-fifth of our children were living in poverty?
And what about public libraries as centers of community life, beloved sources of popular recreation, and reliable service institutions for the masses, vs. the focus of many academics on arcane research and high-stakes experimentation?
Jim Duncan is superbly equipped to speak out on those issues and others, as a former academic librarian with digital experience on university campuses, not just as the leader of a major state consortium serving public libraries. The holder of a BA in English from Grinnell College and an MLIS from the University of Iowa, Duncan was honored in 2011 with a “Mover and Shaker” award from Library Journal, in the “Community Builders” category. He became executive director of the Colorado Library Consortium after serving as director of networking and resource sharing for the Colorado State Library.