Librarian of Congress Does Not Get the Internet

from the it's-what? dept

A response to the somewhat scary speech by the US Librarian of Congress where he says “So far, the Internet seems to be largely amplifying the worst features of television’s preoccupation with sex and violence, semi-illiterate chatter, shortened attention spans, and a near-total subservience to commercial marketing. Where is the virtue in all of this virtual information?” The rest of the article following that link is a response to his speech and it’s a pretty good one.

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Comments on “Librarian of Congress Does Not Get the Internet”

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Todd (profile) says:

two sound bites don't define a line...

Billington was right about one aspect of Internet penetration with respect to at least one segment of the population: attention spans are getting shorter…for online business journalists.

Shirky, The Business2.0 writer, takes a sound bite from Billington’s speech and a comment from the Q&A section and plots a line.

What he gains is a “tee, hee, hee, this guy doesn’t get it!” type of headline. What he misses is contained in the remainder of Billington’s speech: a reverence for the power of knowledge; a respect for the access that the Internet creates and the role it can play in increasing the dissemination of knowledge; and, last but not least, a plan for making available a TON of knowledge.

Here’s a direct quote: “The Library’s web site is already having real impact on American education with 3 million of the most important and interesting primary documents of American history already online and 2 million more in the pipeline. These include Jefferson’s manuscript draft of the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln’s two drafts of the Gettysburg Address, Brady’s Civil War photographs, the notebooks of Walt Whitman and Alexander Graham Bell, 19th Century baseball cards, and fascinating old maps and forgotten music.”

Does that sound like the plan of someone who doesn’t get it? How about this quote: “…, the Library will unveil an even more appealing electronic gateway into its collections: a new web site, We hope it will realize one of the earliest promises of the Internet: to put the Library of Congress at the fingertips of every boy and girl where they live.” Through this web site you will be able to find the 3-5 million historic, digital documents that Billington described.

Finally, though he may have a reverence for books, Billington has a sense of humor about his brick and mortar assets and the progress they’ve made against their brick and mortar objectives: “Meanwhile, the established, old-fashioned work of this unique national knowledge conglomerate must continue. The world’s production of books and other artifacts of human expression continues to increase arithmetically even as digitized information explodes geometrically.”

If Billington understands the difference in the slope of the two curves, I think he gets it. His actions certainly reinforce that view.

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