michaelgeistAs I reported earlier, a public consultation is going on in Canada right now as the government seeks to reform its Canadian Content regulations. The issues most covered by the media about this are the proposals for a ‘Netflix tax’ and other such things. But as the fabulous Michael Geist points out, there is more at stake here than just TV.

In his latest op-Ed for the Toronto Star, Geist encourages Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly to think big:

“Joly’s initiative needs an even bigger goal to capture the public’s imagination. That could include requiring the CBC to open its content for public re-use (the government is opening its national parks, why not its national content?) or embarking on a comprehensive digitization initiative that provides the foundation for a national digital library.”

Well, that is an interesting proposal! And there is precedent for it. One of the reasons government publications have always been available, both on-line and off-line, for no cost has been that they have already been paid for via tax dollars. So how about other works which have been funded this way? It would be bold indeed to imagine that we could access these items too.

The closest we have so far to a ‘national digital library’ is Project Gutenberg Canada. It would be incredible to see that beginning grow into something even more useful and comprehensive.

Publisher’s note: Joanna did not mention the TeleRead-LibraryCity vision of national digital library endowments and national digital libraries in the U.S. and elsewhere. She worried she would be invading my turf. Not at all! Yes, the endowment idea could also work in Canada—maybe even better than in the U.S. since public money would be more easily available. I envision a mix of public and private funding. In Canada, the public percentage might be higher.

Hello, Michael Geist, Mélanie Joly and Justin Trudeau? Check out related writings in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Education Week and Library Journal, as well as on the Atlantic and LibraryCity sites.

In development since the 1990s, this vision is especially timely now, given the outrageous plans to close 54 public library branches in Newfoundland. Far from replacing local libraries, national digital libraries should work partner up with them in areas such as as family literacy. The endowments could help pay for Web-era professional development of librarians and teachers as well as address digital divide issues. In other words, we’re talking about much more than digital content alone. What’s the point of magnificent libraries online if people don’t use them? – D.R.

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


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