Thursday, 8 March 2007

Access to digital content.

Today I received an e-mail from Brian Osborne, author of several books on Scottish history and Hon. Sec. of the Society of Authors in Scotland, about my letter in Update (see my posting in February on Access to Digital Content). Mr Osborne said that he very much agree with my arguments on the need to provide a national answer to the problem and the essentially limited benefits of extending access via the drop-in use in academic libraries. He adds that the Society of Authors in Scotland is interested in this issue of authors from outside the academic world getting access to on-line research material – and as a body representing authors from all over Scotland is particularly conscious of the problems faced by those geographically distant from HE institutions.

This reinforces my point that the library profession has failed to address the issue of a national information policy. The Library and Information Commission's document Keystone for the Information Age: a national information policy for the UK (March 2000) - is an enormous lost opportunity. Here are some quotes

Britain is closer to becoming an information society but we still lack the overall policy and co-ordination that will add value to the various initiatives that are taking place. We have, therefore, taken the opportunity to re-state our view that a UK National Information Policy is urgently required if we are to remain competitive in the global information society.

The Government has an impressive record of achievement in starting to realise the goals set in Our Information Age: the Government's Vision... But a National Information Policy is required as a matter of urgency, to provide a framework within which these diverse initiatives can be co-ordinated. Without such a framework of policy there is a risk that synergies will be lost and the full value of public and private investments will not be realised.

Unchecked, many current information developments could exacerbate social exclusion, further isolating the information have-nots from the rest of society. We need policies to ensure that no-one is excluded from the benefits of an inclusive information society

So what went wrong? Why did the profession fail to follow this up? And how
can we deal with the fall-out from this failure to act seven years ago?

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