Funding, Redundancy, and the Issue of Internet Access

As brought up by our discussion leader, our current economic situation has made funding for libraries difficult and how to fund or continue funding the DPLA is a very good question.  With cuts being made just about everywhere, where will the funding come from?  Despite the confined budget, the federal government should be a participant in the funding.  From the Darton article, it seems that other national digital libraries receive a large portion of their funding from their government.  By going out to Europeana, it appears that a majority of its funding comes from the EU.  With other countries governments being major supporters of their national libraries, the US federal government should become a major contributor  in the DPLA project.  Also, their support would allow the project to remain true to what it was initially intended to do, allow the public to receive better access to knowledge.  If private organizations are helping fund the project, they may sway the project away from its intentions.  For example, if a large organization is contributing a lot of money to the project, they may place stipulations on their funding to benefit them.  It seems that for the project to remain true to its goals that the majority of funding should come from the federal government or other sources that do not have an agenda of their own.

In regards to the project being redundant, I tend to disagree.  Yes, there are other projects like this, such as Google Books and Hathi Trust but they are focused on books.  The DPLA seems to want to offer more than just books online.  It seems that they also want to offer archival material and other digital collections relating to our American heritage.  In this respect they are doing more than and something different from Google Books or Hathi Trust. As a side note, I hope that DPLA does offer a lot of material related to our American heritage.  I majored in history as an undergrad and I am especially interested in American history.  By looking at the Europeana site, I hope that DPLA offers much of the same material.

Another issue that has me a little concerned is the issue of universal internet access.  As Darton explained, the founding fathers had this idealized vision of allowing everyone to gain access to knowledge but in reality, only a few had access to this knowledge.  He suggests that today it is different because everyone has access to the internet and the knowledge that brings.  I agree with him that more people today have access to knowledge than in the 18th century but the poor still have a disadvantage.  For example, poor are less likely to be able to afford access to the internet.  These individuals can go the library to gain access but what if they live in a rural area.  Many rural areas have a hard time gaining internet access or if they can gain access, they have a problem of gaining enough bandwidth to support the community needs, like Atlanta, Texas as stated by Peggy Rudd.  I agree with Rudd and this problem is something to think about in regards to the DPLA.


3 responses to “Funding, Redundancy, and the Issue of Internet Access

  1. According to Peggy Rudd, “the steering committee is very wise not to count on government
    funding at this point.” DPLA must have grave concerns over it. I am curious if all Smithonian museums were taken over by federal government, what might have happened, good or bad.

  2. It would be nice to think the federal government would kick in funding for a project like this but sadly I cannot see that happening. It is a sad time when funding for libraries has become a contentious issue but at this point I think the government funding any program creates debate.
    In theory the DPLA could become an arm of the Library of Congress but I am not sure I would fully trust the funding to be there in the future. Plus the LC is already a large organization, they may not be able to handle building the DPLA and continue with their own work.
    Your concern over organizations having sway over the organization due to providing funding is a concern. However in the end I think it is a safer approach. The DPLA would have more control over gaining additional funding and they can be selective with clear rules for the limited involvement of donors.

  3. And by the way, your point on access issues is very good. Now this could be an area for the federal government to become involved with funding and requiring internet companies to expand coverage to all households. If you happen to read Thomas Friedman (NY Times writer, book author) he has pushed for a number of years for the government to sponsor internet connection as a basic right that everyone should have. The whole reason we’re talking about building a DPLA is because our future will take place in a digital environment. Government mandates for access would be a huge step in the right direction.

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