New York Public Library does the public domain right

The New York Public Library is aggressively digitizing the public domain works in its collections, adding high-quality machine-readable metadata to each of the hundreds of thousands of assets, providing an API, offering residencies to remixers who do interesting things with the collection, and offering all those assets in high-rez with "No permission required. No restrictions on use."

This is the exactly what libraries should be doing with their public domain collections: making them available to all comers in the most convenient and useful way. It's why we invested in libraries, it's the dividend we're due for our decades of financial support. Thank you, NYPL, for your outstanding, world-leading work.

To get a sense of the relevance of the collection, check out NAVIGATING THE GREEN BOOK, which collects and presents "a travel guide published between 1936 and 1966 that listed hotels, restaurants, bars, gas stations, etc. where black travelers would be welcome."

With the introduction of this travel guide in 1936, it has been our idea to give the Negro traveler information that will keep him from running into difficulties, embarrassments and to make his trips more enjoyable.

If this guide has proved useful to you on your trips, let us know. If not, tell us also as we appreciate your criticisms and ideas in the improvement of this guide from which you benefit.

There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.

Public Domain Collections: Free to Share & Reuse [NYPL]

Notable Replies

  1. That is quite excellent. Definitely keeps the library's image toward its public in good faith, and makes them relevant since they become a valuable source of information that might not be easily available. Seems like a no-brainer, too bad this is not usually the case.

  2. Waiting to see who sues them. This could impact profits, you know!

  3. Just to point out that with a date of 1947 the reason that this particular item is in the public domain is that after 26 years, nobody thought that that it was worth renewing the copyright, just like ~85% of works published. A much better system IMHO than locking everything up for more than 70 years because of the small number of works that have long lasting economic value to be exploited.

  4. Just a few weeks ago a librarian I know said, "Libraries are no longer judged by the number of volumes they hold but by their ability to provide access to information."

    I'll add that I think libraries should continue to rely on print--that electronic and print collections should complement rather than one entirely supplanting the other, but digitizing collections in this way is a big boost to that mission of providing access.

  5. There's definitely good interest in print, but generally libraries that operate under the same umbrella share those books now instead of each acting as an island onto themselves. Which is why you can request for certain books that your local library might not have and expect to have it waiting for you after some time.

    I think the move toward offering access to digital information is a positive thing, but as you said.. print is king in many circumstances.

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