The National Library of Norway is digitizing its entire collection. The Norwegian Legal Deposit Act requires that all published content, in all media, be deposited with the National Library of Norway. The collection is also being expanded through purchases and gifts. The digital collection contains material dating from the Middle Ages up to the current day.
What, what does that mean?
The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal takes it away:
…[W]hen the library is finished scanning, the entire record of a people’s language and literature will be machine-readable and sitting in whatever we call the cloud in 15 years.
If you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download.
According to the Scandinavian Library Quarterly, the National Library is six years into its digitization process. The results so far: a collection of approximately “350,000 newspaper copies, 235,000 books, 240,000 pages of handwritten manuscripts, 4,000 posters, 740,000 hours of radio broadcasts, 310,000 hours of television programmes, 7,000 videocassettes/films, 7,000 78-rpm records and 8,000 audiotapes.”
Pretty amazing that a country values the cultural capital of its media to recognize it as a common resource for all its citizens. Meantime, in the States, well, copyright, although a federal judge did back Google’s book digitization efforts in November.
Libraries and librarians…are…a kind of secular clergy, a trusted ear and an unbiased source of information and support to anyone who walks in the door. This is the compact we have at the deeper levels of our engagement with our communities past the bestsellers and free internet. There is a web of trust. Our users know, or should know, that they can come to us with issues and concerns and that we will leverage our best abilities to their ends. No matter what crazy crap is going on in your life the librarian will figure it out and set you up with at least some better understanding and a direction to go in.
These are all major accomplishments, and we librarians have every right to be proud of them. But the world is moving on. Each of the services we’ve provided in the digital arena has been — or is being — superseded by new and better technologies or by other organizations better suited to deliver services electronically. And when Google has finished its scanning project, it will have no more use for us or our collections either. So after more than 50 years in the digital market, libraries have come right back to where they started. Our dream of an electronic library has been built, but others own and manage it. We are left with the tangible property we began with, our physical books, the thousands of buildings that house them, and the millions of people still coming through our doors to use them. In reality, those are not inconsiderable assets — especially in a world where it may become increasingly uneconomical to have physical bookstores or places where people can get together to listen to stories or discuss books and ideas. Figuring out how to exploit those assets in this new environment will not be easy. Perhaps we should turn our attention away from the electric library that others have built and focus on the real books and buildings that made us what we were to begin with. Perhaps that will continue to define us into the future. Or perhaps not. Perhaps we have new roles to play in the digital world or old roles to play but in a new way. Let’s think about that.
The day a virtual library becomes a legit place to hang out, or goof off with friends is the day physical libraries truly die. Information alone is only so valuable, after all.
Library sex began with high hopes. Long before the era of the public library, stories of sex among books were set in private collections, in secluded humanist studies. The protagonist of Antonio Vignali’s 1526 La Cazzaria (The Book of the Prick) examines a collection of raunchy books and manuscripts in a private study as he awaits the arrival of a lover. The presence of smutty works in progress is telling: there is an elegant cross-pollination here. Books inspire sex, sex creates books—and all within the four walls of the library.
Avi Steinberg, The Paris Review. Checking Out.
A brief history of libraries, librarians and sex in which we learn that “again and again,” in contemporary library-porn lit, “the neglected love life of the librarian is a stand-in for the doomed state of the library generally.”