Today is a historic day, the launching of the Digital Public Library of America. The DPLA is a utopian dream, similar to Jefferson's of making all information public, "the common property of mankind."
In the 80's, I was enthralled with my reach into the catacombs of University libraries, like Harvard, MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and others via Gopher, the Internets early Linux based version of the WWW. I was accessing primary and secondary and occasionally tertiary resources for my scholars. We all know school libraries, suck, most community libraries are limited, and college libraries are not really accessible to our students. Then of course the web came along, more Internet access in schools and slowly our scholars began to have access to information they needed. Restrictions still existed and forced hacking by me and many many others. Aaron Swartz is a sad reminder of this and of our limits. I'd hack and put the booty on my web server so my scholars had access. I scanned things, too. Fair Use was my argument. I was operating on the Jeffersonian edict about information for the masses. But now, those hacking days are over and the DPLA is making the first very crucial steps to link up with all the libraries in our colleges, communities, and homes to provide digital versions of our collected information. Over time, the Library of Congress and the digital library of Europe will be linked in. Copyright issues are solved, publishers and authors see the value of this, so that within a generation we will see the greatest collection of man's works available to man since the library of Alexandria.
Today is an important date. It is as important as the date the Gutenberg press started and the digital collections of Gutenberg, Bartelby, LiberVox, and so many others that have limited collections and are subject to copyright. Information will indeed be more accessible to more people and that is what makes a true and pure democracy. The most important aspect of DPLA is that we will finally have access to primary sources like never before and without subscriptions and passwords. Scholars will not be subject to textbook editors or teachers who select because of politics, religion, culture or any other reason what is read by our scholars, the people. They will have access to the primary sources and they will make up their own minds, generate their own opinions, and create their own scholarship that will truly move America and the world forward.
I am overwhelming ecstatic about the DPLA. Thomas Jefferson would be very happy with us today. I can't wait to share this with my grandchildren. My life's work, CyberEnglish, will be enhanced by the DPLA.