Martin Gomez spoke at the U. of Toronto last week and also chatted with Michael Posner from The Globe and Mail about the Digital Public Library of America.
For several years, Martin Gomez has been actively promoting the Digital Public Library of America – a campaign to digitize inventories of cultural and scientific records and make them available to everyone, online – in effect, creating the public library of the future. Until this month, he served as general manager of Los Angeles’ public library system, overseeing 72 branches, 1,100 employees, and an annual budget of $129-million. He resigned recently to take a new job as vice-dean of libraries at the University of Southern California. Mr. Gomez was in Toronto this week to appear at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.
Here are Two Exchanges from the Interview:
Globe and Mail: What are the principal obstacles you face?
Gomez: There are issues around copyright and public domain. In e-publishing, a lot of big publishers are unwilling to sell or license current publications to libraries, so we are shut out of that market. And a lot of communities are not well versed in how to use digital content. Libraries could become a hub for teaching those skills – both how to discern and interpret information, and to provide tools to help create digital content.
Globe and Mail: Who’s backing this venture financially?
Gomez: Two huge foundations are funding it, just to get the ball rolling. But over time, public libraries will have to shift resources for these purposes. That will be tricky, because we still have a large constituency that supports the traditional role. I’m not saying we need to throw that out, but there is also a younger generation more adept at using digital devices to get information. We need to be where they are. Public libraries could pay a subscription fee to be a member, so the expense would be nominal for local communities. That’s one model.