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.

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.)

Squire Law Library’s Eminent Scholars Archive

Cambridge University’s Squire Law Library maintains an oral history archive of interviews with prominent international law scholars and practitioners.  The site includes audio files and transcripts of the interviews. 

Interviewees include:

Judge Stephen Schwebel

Professor Elihu Lauterpacht

Professor Derek Bowett

Professor Martti Koskenniemi

Many thanks to the folks at the Squire Law Library for creating and maintaining this resource that brings personal and historical perspectives to the discipline of international law.

Eminent Scholars Archive

GPO Study of Regional Depositories — Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP)

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has posted a new (December 2008/transmitted January 6, 2009) study of its 51 regional library depositories (in 43 states; 33 (62%) of which are academic libraries, 14 (30%) of which are state libraries, and 4 (8%) of which are public libraries) in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), addressing — among other things — organizational, financial and technological conditions and recommending (to the Joint Committee on Printing (JCP), the joint committee of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that oversees the GPO):

1. Support continued appropriations for GPO’s initiative to create machine-readable bibliographic records for the tangible collection of pre-1976 depository publications to ensure its completion in a timelier manner.

2. Undertake a more in-depth look at the organizational, financial, and technological issues affecting the FDLP in its entirety, regionals and selectives alike, and analyze the results to develop recommendations for policy and/or statutory revision that will provide for effective operation of the FDLP in the 21st century; and

3. Continue to support GPO’s initiatives to authenticate the Government’s digital information dissemination products.

Hat tip to today’s Law Librarian Blog.