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The Great Library

I'm tired of all these halfbaked attempts at online libraries
  [vote for,

For once and for all, let some great government or group thereof build the great online library of human knowledge. I'm talking about an Apollo Project-sized effort here of much greater practical value than moon rocks. Assemble a vast army of scanning techs, database jockeys, and webmasters, library scientists, and academics of every discipline. Copyright issues? Maybe, but we don't have to actually allow access to copyrighted materials - at least for now. Books, journals, maps, art, and music to start. Both images and text, please. Later movies, and original documents and letters of historical note.

Already halfbaked? Maybe, but I guess I just want to see if others feel that it is now time to get moving on what should be perhaps the most valuable public works project ever.

EvilHomer, Apr 22 2003

The Original http://www.bede.org.uk/library.htm
None of those exploding resumes here, please. [Don Quixote, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Memex http://www.theatlan.../computer/bushf.htm
The 'classic' description of this kind of system was made in 1945 in the article "As we may think", but Vannevar Bush. Excellent reading, if you gloss over the 1940's technology limitations and the stuff about peacetime uses for the wartime scientific advances.

This problems involved in such a project are not technical (i.e. storage space isn't really an isssue), but semantic - there's no reliable way of categorising and interlinking documents (manually, I mean - automatic methods are even more unreliable) in such a way that is meaningful across a range of users and a range of information domains (Hey! This is what I did my PhD on!).
The best we've got at the moment is the 'raw power' method of Google, which relies on you, the user, to determine whether your search term is effective. This is fine most of the time, but I expect you're imaging your "Great Library" to be something other than the internet. [hippo, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

ISI Web of Knowledge -- not what I would call a half-hearted online library. http://www.isinet.com/isi/
The world of academia is already onto this idea. Find all you want here - almost all academic journals, many of which are available electronically, for a fee of course. [badgers, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Database of everything http://www.halfbake...e_20of_20everything
Related idea by [globaltourniquet] [krelnik, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

The New Library of Alexandria http://query.nytime...28CDDAA0894DB404482
The old one burned down. [DrCurry, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

The Long Now Foundation http://www.longnow.org/about/about.htm
Aiming for storage of long-term data sets, among other projects. [-alx, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]

Bartleby.com http://www.bartleby.com
All the best public domain stuff, plus a massive amount of reference material. [waugsqueke, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 05 2004]


       Hey, charge a fee to access to copyrighted material. The great library or the great library lite. Still, I like this idea and I think at some point in the future its going to be there.
sufc, Apr 22 2003

       Correct me if I’m mistaken. This is a “Doomsday Record”.
Shz, Apr 23 2003

       I've narrowed it down to either; Multivac, or The Final Encyclopedia.   

       Obligatory Borges reference
snarfyguy, Apr 23 2003

       Um . . . I don't think so. Built for use now; not necessarily able to withstand doomsday conditions and not necessarily E.T.-friendly.
EvilHomer, Apr 23 2003

       Quarter-baked, but the original seems to have suffered over time. [link] Still, it was a good idea then, and it's a good idea now. I think the larger issue is format - digitizing printed material doesn't necessarily extend its lifespan - paper seems to stay viable longer than most digital formats. 8" disks, anyone?
Don Quixote, Apr 23 2003

       It has to be digital to be useful - any human with an internet connection must be able to use it. Inevitably, over time, storage equipment will have to be upgraded the data converted.
EvilHomer, Apr 23 2003

Miss Bianca, Apr 23 2003

       Hmmm... Definitely a good idea, although being acquainted with a similar but much smaller scale project I realise you will need an _awful_ lot of people.   

       Would be good to transcribe the text too, while you are at it.
whimsickle, Apr 23 2003

       [reensure] the idea you are probably thinking of is "Database of everything", I added a link to it.
krelnik, Apr 23 2003

       Except for the historical archive feature, wouldn't Google make it redundant?
RayfordSteele, Apr 23 2003

       My understanding is that they are trying to build a new, electronic Library of Alexandria, that would probably do the trick.   

       However, in searching for it, I've found a good half dozen electronic Libraries of Alexandria.
DrCurry, Apr 23 2003

       Exactly the point. I guess my idea is to point out that 1. this has got to be a government or government consortium project; no private foundation, university, or group of universities could muster the resources; 2. the pieces are in place and we should start now; 3. we can and should spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a project like this, as the return on investment would be immense. This, to me, is the kind of government project that inspires.   

       Do you agree?   

       By the way - the idea is to build a Great Library; in writing "all human knowledge," I did not intend to invoke 'database of everything'-type academic abstractions. Ordinary concepts of categorizing, indexing, bibliography creating, and text searching are sufficient, thank you.
EvilHomer, Apr 23 2003

       Actually, no, it doesn't have to be a government anything. It could be an open source project, where all the libraries in the world (or some significant subset) pool their online resources to create a single distributed super-library. That would also make it much less susceptible to the type of catastrophe that overtook the real Library of Alexandria. (Three times over, I believe.)   

       And why spend an extra dime when all those universities have doctoral research needing to be done, mostly on public money?
DrCurry, Apr 23 2003

       To be really useful, the library must be standardized, well managed, and comprehensive. I believe this demands strong centralized leadership and control of resources. That is not to say that the existing work of universities and others cannot be leveraged, or absorbed into the project.   

       The points you raise are good ones, but I think that system would continue to provide diffuse and haphazard data that characterizes the internet today.
EvilHomer, Apr 23 2003

       But data *is* diffuse and haphazard. It's the indexing and cataloguing that really counts.
DrCurry, Apr 23 2003

       -I believe this demands strong centralized leadership and control of resources-   

       I may have the qualities you seek. Can I send you a copy of my resume?
Saddam Hussein, Apr 23 2003

       Great works of art and science have, throughout time, been facilitated by the strong leadership of civic minded governments. Strong, centralized leadership of public projects does not lead inexorably to despotism or fascism. I think there are strong arguments that can be made against the government-centric model that I have proposed. That some strong leaders have also been despots is not one of them.
EvilHomer, Apr 23 2003

       Bartleby.com comes damn close.
waugsqueke, Apr 28 2003

       My bookshelf at work. One dog-eared copy of "How to ride the Internet wave," with pages 135-148 ripped out.
DrCurry, Apr 28 2003

       Librarians fail to stand up for their brethren   

       A bitter, months-long dispute within the American Library Association -- the largest nation-based organization of librarians in the world -- continues as to whether to demand that Fidel Castro release 10 imprisoned independent librarians found guilty of making available to Cubans copies of George Orwell's 1984 and the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights.   

       Along with 65 other Cuban dissenters, the ''subversive'' librarians were sentenced to 20 or more years in Castro's gulag. Some urgently need medical attention, which they're not receiving.   

       At the ALA's annual midwinter meeting this month in San Diego, Karen Schneider, a member of the ALA's governing council, wanted to amend a final report on the meeting to call for their immediate release. In proposing her amendment, Schneider told her colleagues that Castro's police had confiscated and burned books and other materials at the independent libraries.   

       The amendment was overwhelmingly defeated by the 182-member council. The report was swept through by a raising of hands.   

       From Sept. 25 to Oct. 2, libraries across this country will invite their communities to the annual Banned Books Week, decrying censorship. I've spoken, by invitation, during those weeks at libraries around the country. Will any library invite me this year to talk about the burning of library books in Cuba?   

       In the final report, also passed overwhelmingly by raised hands, there was some pious language expressing the ALA's ''deep concern over the arrest and long prison terms of political dissidents in Cuba'' -- but this deep concern does not extend to asking the Cuban dictator to liberate all of the 75 imprisoned in his crackdown last spring, including the 10 librarians.   

       Steve Marquardt, an ALA member who believes in everyone's right to read everywhere, wrote to Eliades Acosta Matos, the director of Cuba's National Library (Biblioteca Nacional Jose Marti), and they discussed Schneider's amendment, which Marquardt supports.   

       In his answer, Castro's appointee said: ''I send to you the text of the report on Cuba, approved in San Diego. Ask yourself why the resolution proposed by Ms. Schneider was defeated.'' The response also -- like some members of the American Library Council -- blamed the ''aggressions'' of the American government against Cuba, ''including 'lies and subversion, such as the independent libraries.' '' But the books were sent to the independent libraries by people from many countries, including individual Americans.   

       After that final report was approved by the ALA's governing council, the association's president, Carla Hayden, said that the vote ''shows that people are able to work out differences of opinion and come together on a joint statement.''   

       As an indication of the ALA leadership's hypocrisy, the final report of its governing council in January urges ''the Cuban government to eliminate obstacles to access to information imposed by its policies.'' But there's not a word about eliminating the obstacles to the release of the 10 independent librarians.   

       Then the governing council's report supports ''an investigative visit [to Cuba] by a special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with special attention given to freedom of access to information and freedom of information, especially in the cases of those recently imprisoned.'' What freedom of information are the Cuban gulag guards ''conveying'' to those prisoners?   

       And remember, this report is going to the same U.N. Human Rights Commission that includes Cuba, as well as such champions of freedom of expression as China, Zimbabwe, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.   

       What is the ALA leadership thinking?   

       Moreover, after Castro sent the 10 librarians and 65 other dissidents into his prison, the notorious U.N. Human Rights Commission refused to pass a condemnation of Castro and also turned down a resolution by Costa Rica calling for the immediate release of the prisoners.   

       Meanwhile, on Jan. 16, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions in The Hague joined Amnesty International in condemning Castro's new bill that places even more severe restrictions on Cuban citizens' use of the Internet. Amnesty International ''fears that the new measures are intended to prevent human rights monitoring by restricting the flow of information out of Cuba.''   

       It's a shame librarians around this country have a leadership that mocks the ALA's Library Bill of Rights, which requires its members to ''challenge censorship'' -- but refuses to call for the release of 10 librarians in Castro's prisons who, indeed, challenged censorship.
docweasel, Feb 15 2004


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