A Summary of Events and
Topics of Interest to Online Genealogists
NORTHEAST OHIO COMPUTER-AIDED GENEALOGY society
compiled by Luther Olson
Vol. 11 No. 2 SPECIAL EDITION, April 1, 2006
Published May 20, 2006
NorthEast Ohio Computer-Aided Genealogy [NEOCAG] serves
Eastern Cuyahoga, Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, Portage &
Regular meetings 2nd Saturday of each month
St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church
435 S.O.M. Road, Mayfield Village, OH.
IN THIS ISSUE:
> News And Views
> Building The Digital Library,
Mary Sue Coleman—President of the University of Michigan
> News And Views
I regret that this issue is coming out so late. Many of you know that at the present time I am facing a time when family issues have priority, and they may continue for some time to come. With special trips to Wyoming and numerous days spent in doctors’ offices or the hospital, my normal obligations often get pushed aside. Most of you have already been through times like this, and know well what it is like.
However, there is something that I view to be special that I would like to send to you, even though late. We in NEOCAG attempt to keep you all up to date in recent developments, either through our presentations or our publications. It is interesting to note, however, that sometimes the things that turn out to be the most important to our genealogy efforts are things that were never intended for genealogy any more than they were for any other part of our various activities.
Specifically, it was a few months back when we first were informed that Google, Yahoo and MSN were contracting with some of the worlds’ largest cities and universities to scan and digitize ALL the books in their respective libraries. The intent was to make all this information searchable and available to all. The scope of a project like this is almost beyond comprehension—millions of books and periodicals are to be scanned page by page. As one would expect, the cost is enormous.
However, when Google first began this project, our news sources were filled with stories of a problem. How could they copy and make all this work ready to send into every home and institution without breaking the copyright laws that protect the creative property of innumerable authors? Within days, however, the news moved on to other topics and (I suspect at least most of us) were never informed of any progress on this situation--or any resolution.
I was therefore pleased to receive the Spring 2006 issue of Michigan Today newsletter that contained a wonderful article by Mary Sue Coleman, President of the U. of Michigan on this topic. Her article first appeared in the Washington Post on October 22, 2005. The U. of Michigan was one of the original five universities that have partnered with Google to make their libraries’ contents available online. Here the President explains the procedures, and the reason she feels that there should be no further concern about this project.
> Building The Digital Library,
Mary Sue Coleman--President of the University of Michigan
Some authors and publishers have cried foul regarding Google’s digital library initiative, sparking debate about intellectual property rights in an online age. Beyond the specific legal challenges emerging in the wake of such a sea change, there are deeply important public policy issues at stake. We must not lose sight of the transformative nature of Google’s plan or the public good that can come from it.
Throughout history, most of the world’s printed knowledge has been created, preserved, and used only by society’s elites—those for whom education and power meant access to the great research libraries. Now, groundbreaking tools for mass digitization are poised to change that paradigm. We believe the result can be a widening of human conversation comparable to the emergence of mass literacy itself.
Google plans to make its index searchable to every person in the world who enjoys access to the internet. For those works that remain in copyright, a search will reveal brief excerpts along with information about how to buy the work or borrow it from a public library. Searches of work in the public domain will yield access to complete texts online.
Imagine what this means for scholars and the general public, who, until now, might have discovered only a fraction of the material written on a subject. Or picture a small, impoverished school—in America or anywhere in the world—what does not have access to a substantial library but does have an internet connection.
This enormous shift is already upon us. Students coming to my campus today belong to the Net Generation. By the time they were in middle school, the internet was a part of their daily lives. As we watch the way our students search for and use information, this much is clear: If information is not digitized it will not be found.
Libraries and educational institutions are the only entities whose mission is to preserve knowledge through the centuries. It is a crucial role, one outside the interest of corporate entities and separate from the whims of the market. If libraries do not archive and curate, there is substantial risk that entire bodies of work will be lost.
Universities and the knowledge they offer should be accessible by all.
We must continue to ensure access to the vast intellectual opportunity and knowledge we generate and preserve. The digitization of information is a profound gesture that holds open our doors. Limiting access to information is tantamount to limiting the opportunities of our citizens.
Criticism of the Google library project revolves around questions of intellectual property. Universities are no strangers to the responsible management of complex copyright, permission, and security issues, we deal with them every day in our classrooms, libraries, laboratories and performance halls. We will continue to work with the correct criteria for fair use as we move ahead with digitization.
But we believe deeply that this endeavor exemplifies the spirit under which our nation’s copyright law was developed: to encourage the free exchange of ideas in the service of innovation and societal progress. The protections of copyright are designed to balance the rights of the creator with the rights of the public. At its core is the most important principle of all: to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, not to stifle such exchange.
No one believed more fervently in the diffusion of knowledge than Thomas Jefferson, who resurrected the Library of Congress, using his own books, after its predecessor was destroyed by fire. We must continue to heed his message:
“And it cannot be but that each generation succeeding to the knowledge acquired by all those who preceded it, adding to it their own acquisitions and discoveries, and handing the mass down for successive and constant accumulation, must advance the knowledge and well-being of mankind, not infinitely, as some have said, but indefinitely, and to a term which no one can fix and foresee.”
I worry that we are unnecessarily fearful of a world where our libraries can be widely accessed and that our fear will strangle the exchange of ideas so critical to our Founders. As these technologies are developed, our policies must help ensure that people can find information and that printed works are preserved for future generations.
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