Thoughts about public vs. academic

I wanted to respond to the last question in this week’s prompt:

Is the library truly public if a majority of materials made available would be better suited to academia and not your typical public library users?”

It seems to me that the visionaries behind the DPLA (Darnton for sure) might reject the concept that we should separate out our materials “better suited to academia” from those suited to “typical public library users” in order to think of the DPLA as appropriately “public.”  I understand the ethos behind the DPLA to be based on a desire to break down the traditional barriers around academia’s treasure trove of specifically-“academic” information. In that way, it could be compared to the NYPL’s research divisions which at least one influential writer has championed precisely because they put resources traditionally reserved for professors within the grasp of the public (in that case, the public with the ability to physically get to the NYPL)

The Hathi Trust website’s statement about their partnership community promises to serve the “scholarly needs of the broader public” along with “faculty, students or researchers.” I think one of the exciting prospects of digital libraries is that they can potentially serve both scholars and the broader public effectively with collections that go far beyond what an average public library might offer but that are of amazing value to the broader public.  Of course, as has been pointed out here, that “broader public” is limited to those that can get online.  But still, digital libraries certainly bring the riches of these vast collections to a much broader public than they would otherwise reach.

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