How big is your school’s digital library?

What is in it?

How do you get access to it?

Who “controls” access?

There’s a free access magazine on the Internet that covers issues related to the digital content of libraries.

http://www.dlib.org

In the most recent issue, an article titled:

21st Century Shipping
Network Data Transfer to the Library of Congress

Between 2008 and 2009 the Library of Congress added approximately 100 TB of data to its digital collections, transferred from universities, publishers, web archivists and other organizations. The data comprised a broad range of content from photos to video, from books and periodicals to websites.

WOW!

I am not suggesting a school might or should have a digital collection like that, but aren’t we at a point when educational support materials can be made more accessible if in digital formats. And, though an IT department might have the skills to maintain the integrity of the content, it probably should be a librarian who is the “maintainer” of the data. It needs appropriate cataloging, integration into the scope and sequence documents of the school, etc.

Certainly, any materials that are available in the public domain and other licenses such as the Creative Commons Attribution license should be considered for inclusion, even though they are available from sources on the Internet. I would argue for local copies instead of just links to the content housed elsewhere, but maybe some combination of the two is appropriate.

More and more teachers are creating materials with computers, but I would bet that most of those materials are not often shared even among colleagues in the same building. Creative effort in an educational setting needs a place to shine through the walls of the individual classrooms. What better place to collect such artifacts than in a school’s digital library where they can be accessed, used, expanded and possibly even outlive the tenure of the individual who created them.

A school or district could even gain positive notice by generating a critical mass of such content and making it available to other schools. Naturally, such a generous spirit requires that the materials be properly licensed, but what makes more sense than that? Tying the material up in copyright because a teacher might hope to be made rich? Unlikely…and probable, too that most teachers don’t get into the field of education with expectation of riches. The more probable scenario is that the individual items in the digital collection are made more powerful when mixed with other items in the collection created by others.

Of course, I would recommend that as much of the material be created or converted to an open format so that tie in to a particular software program isn’t a limitation. Time has a funny way of making old proprietary formats inaccessible.

Start the committee, make the proposal to your librarian, IT department, principal, and superintendent. Get the ball rolling. It’s summer, a great time to start a digital library.

Network Data Transfer to the Library of Congress

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