The Library of Congress is about to get its first new honcho in a generation, and not a day too soon, given that the guy who presided over the past generation's worth of copyright policy in America is a proud technophobe whose favorite technological innovation is the fax machine.
The identity of the next Librarian is hugely controversial — some wonks are even predicting that if a modernizer is elected, the bought-and-paid-for copyright maximalists in the Copyright Office might try to separate the Copyright Office from the Library of Congress, creating an easy-to-capture regulatory agency.
Writing in Slate, Dan Gillmor moots Brewster Kahle, one of the inventors of the search engine and founder of the Internet Archive, for Librarian. He's got my endorsement.
. He's brilliant, technical, with proven administrative skills—and he loves libraries and their essential role in society. The Librarian of Congress can be the advocate for all of them, and by extension for the spreading of knowledge everywhere.
The digital transformation "is much more subtle than many people think," he said. And it presents us with a basic choice, he said. Will local, regional, and university libraries just be subscribers to databases? That could happen if the digitized information is centralized under the control of a few aggregators and resellers. Or will libraries, especially local ones, retain the essence of their 19th- and 20th-century values as quirky, responsive community centers that serve many needs? He prefers the latter, by far, and so should we.
President Thomas Jefferson appointed America's first Librarian of Congress in 1802. Billington is the 13th to hold the post. Let's hope that whoever gets the nod from President Obama will bring progressive—in every sense of the word—values to this vital role in our nation's life. There are many people who can meet this test. Brewster Kahle is one of them. #DraftBrewster.
The Creator of the Internet Archive Should Be the Next Librarian of Congress [Dan Gillmor/Slate]