Palfrey (Head of School/Phillips Andover Academy; Intellectual Property Strategy, 2011, etc.) reports on his progress setting up the Digital Public Library of America and argues that in the digital era, public libraries are more necessary than ever before.
The author, the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library, is involved with reorganizations of particular libraries, such as Harvard Law School Library. He is known for his expertise in various aspects of Internet policy, including open access and intellectual property rights. Here, Palfrey defends America's tradition of philanthropy-based free public libraries, starting with Joshua Bates' 1852 founding of the Boston Public Library, as well as Andrew Carnegie's nationwide provision of library facilities. “The changes wrought by the digital revolution,” writes the author, “add up to a perfect storm for libraries and librarians. Every kind of librarian…faces a series of problems that can’t all be solved at once using the resources they have today.” The traditional job description of “collectors” and “keepers” of information is out of sync with successive waves of digital technology. Libraries, which lack sufficient financial resources, can't keep up with the flood of printed and digital material. The author argues for the support of public libraries as core institutions of democracy, noting that “the knowledge that libraries offer and the help librarians provide are the life-blood of an informed and engaged republic.” We must preserve the public spaces and combine them with digital platforms, as both will play an essential role in the future. Palfrey provides insight into local efforts in schools and libraries around the country and highlights the individual trailblazers. He also details national and international efforts that are bringing vast resources to the public and dealing with legal and other issues that come up along the way.
A significant wake-up call to increase citizens' access to knowledge and culture, which requires both public awareness and financial support.