National Library plans online archive for all

Wellington's National Library has a big picture view. In fact, it has a world view -- and one it hopes to share with all Kiwis.

That is the vision library chief executive Penny Carnaby paints of the library's digital vision -- to "surface and join up" both born-digital and digitized content from New Zealand and the world, to offer a comprehensive picture of thought, writing, sound and visual imagery on any subject.

The library is being greatly enlarged, and last week Carnaby gave Computerworld a preview of what visitors will experience in the run-up to the 2011 opening.

One whole floor of the extended Molesworth Street building will be devoted to digital materials. This will include facilities for access and for digitally creative people to work in the library.

"If we want to be a leading information democracy, we need to make the same information available to a child in Invercargill as to an Auckland academic or a West Coast businessman," she says.

The library is presently being redeveloped but even though staff will be out of the building they will be "going flat out" digitizing and indexing large portions of the Turnbull Library's heritage collection, says Carnaby. This forms part of the National Library's collection.

New Zealand's experience of the First World War will be part of the first major demonstration showcasing the increased prominence of digital content. This will take place in November. November 11 will mark the 90th anniversary of the Armistice that ended the war.

The information being made available online will include records of personal experience from the papers of ordinary families, as well as official archive materials. Some people went on to lose more family members to the devastating flu epidemic of 1918. The personal documents being made available will show what it's like to come home after such a life-changing experience as fighting in a war and endure an epidemic.

A number of projects are already under way to help the National Library achieve its ambition. For example, the Tertiary Education Commission and Ministry of Education are putting New Zealand's publicly funded research online, through the KRIS (Kiwi Research Information System) project.

"Since the research is publicly funded it should be publicly accessible," says Carnaby.

The Library is a foundation member of the KAREN consortium, so is hooked into the research and education network. This will allow it to connect its digital holdings with those of libraries in other countries.

The Aotearoa People's Network will also be able take advantage of these links to provide broadband access for people without broadband at home or work. However, continued rollout of broadband is essential both to public access and to developing online collections, says Carnaby.

The "joining up" of data from multiple sources, within and across national boundaries, will require original research into interoperability, she says -- "so we can be sure my data will talk to your data."

An example is the Library's National Digital Heritage Archive project, which is trying to gather a wide swathe of local digital content. This includes harvesting the entire .nz web-space once or twice a year. Visitors to the library will be encouraged to submit their own content for this archive.

Increasingly, this information will be provided under Creative Commons licences, which allow reasonable re-use of content as long as no fee is charged.

Indigenous content presents its own challenges, says Carnaby. And the National Library will be looking into this. One suggestion is that it could pioneer a special version of the Creative Commons licence appropriate to traditional indigenous material.

The library is also planning to invite proposals from local artists for a kinetic sculpture which will give physical expression to the "sucking in" of information which forms the archive, says Carnaby.

There are also plans for large moving displays in the foyer of the redeveloped building with a digital content theme, and a "Breaking News" café where information of immediate interest will be broadcast to patrons.

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