Sunday, November 23, 2008

I Will Fear No Google

Over at Archives Next, I just took a quick look at the Archives 2.0 Manifesto, and one thing really stood out for me. There's a lot of muttering, some from high places, on primary sources being the next target for Google, fed by the Google/Life project that just announced.

Well, duh.

I worked in a photographic archive with 1.5M images, and I've freelanced for archives with image collections. I KNOW how hard it is to describe images in a meaningful way if there's no caption info, and even if there is. I blush to think how long it took me to realize that Jack Niles was John Jacob Niles, and the reason he was in Eastern Kentucky was because he was Doris Ulmann's assistant, and suddenly there were research implications that weren't there before.

If I wasn't there, how long would it have taken for someone else to make the connection? And if they had, would they have told us?

I love the Flickr archives images. The people who know by experience what and where of the FSA photos are dying off, and the common knowledge will become deep research we can't afford to do.

I love the Google copyright registry. Ditto.

Why should we wait until we gather a group and write a grant and get funded (someday maybe)when someone's willing to do it now, at no cost, and more importantly, make it available. What will happen when Google goes away? The Internet Archive. And then? Someone else. There's always someone else, someone with the public good in mind.

We're supposed to serve the scholarly community, and not just the scholars on our campus. If Google Archives puts us out of a job, what's that compared with the public good? That's like lamenting the loss of catalog card typists and electric erasers.

I'm only the third generation in this country. My grandmother used to say "What you know, no one can take from you". Multiply that by a few billion, and no political or natural disaster can wipe out the knowledge.

Books that can't be censored or banned, images that can be freely seen, archives that can be read any time and any place? What's the problem with that?

Oh, I know there are problems and issues, including me learning still another profession. But if we don't act, if we don't partner with people who can make it happen, if we don't move forward and reinvent ourselves, someone else will do that for us.

Google rules right now. It used to be AOL and Compuserve. Things change all the time.

Why shouldn't we?

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