From Papyrus to PDF: the Rebirth of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina

The Newsletter of Japan’s National Diet Library published an interview with the director of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Egypt. Interview was conducted by Makoto Nagao, Librarian of the National Diet Library.

From Papyrus to PDF: the Rebirth of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Lecture and Discussion by Dr. Ismail Serageldin.

National Diet Library Newsletter, No.171 February 2010.

http://www.ndl.go.jp/en/publication/ndl_newsletter/171/711.html

Excerpts from the interview:

Dr. Nagao: I think access to digitized library materials must be provided within a framework in which publishers and authors do not lose out. I proposed a business model to protect their interest two years ago. Is this the direction Egypt is looking at?

Dr. Serageldin: Yes, it is. I also know an alternative which is the Norwegian approach; the government levies a tax and pays the sum to authors, thereby making a number of books free. There is another model deserving to be looked at on translation. There is a provision in Egyptian law which enables unpermitted translation of a material following three years of refusal by copyright holders. The U.S. is pressing us to change it. But I had debates on the matter and found that it is publishers, not authors, who are objecting it. But then, we give them 3 years to do it themselves.

Dr. Nagao: We cannot introduce lending of digitized data from the NDL to public libraries and schools because of copyright law. Is it possible to digitally transmit copyrighted materials in Egypt?

Dr. Serageldin: No. Our current arrangement is that out of 125,000 materials available on the Internet, out-of-copyright materials are available fully, 5% of non-out-of-copyright ones can be read and the rest can be ordered to be copied. We will print it by the Espresso Book Machine. I have an agreement with publishers, printers and authors. My vision of the future is that we should have everything available online but people must pay for download, either to a personal reader or into a printed copy.
Ideally printing machines will be as ubiquitous as ATMs for banks, with pre-approved arrangements to benefit author, publisher and other stakeholders. But at present, I am having a tough time in reaching an agreement with publisher after publisher.

Now we embrace the future by defending our values against obscurantism, fanaticism and xenophobia. We strengthen the role of women wherever we can, and we link people together by the Arab Info Mall.

But we need to reach further, hence the mass media. We have two weekly TV programs: one is a discussion program that I do, and the other is a weekly program on what’s new at the Library. We decided that the BA needs its own TV Studio and now it is under construction.
(Update on the matter: BA has been able to set-up a full-fledged cutting-edge studio in a record time. The studio is now successfully operating to screen, edit and produce many episodes of the library’s weekly programs. BA is now preparing for a new TV Science Series which will focus on tracing the development of different fields of science throughout the years as well as on highlighting most influential scientists throughout history and their main contributions to science. The new TV Science Series named “Horizons” will be fully produced in the new studio facility at the BA.)

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