Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Capacity Focus, 18: Could we create a regional eBook library to support general and theological education?

A conversation with a local pastor today, on the Java course idea under development led to his making reference to how profs in his Seminary were able to access electronic copies of books at academic libraries overseas as a part of their advanced studies.

A light bulb went off.

Why don't we create a regional digital, eBook-based library connected with the Caribbean Evangelical Theological Association's schools, and carrying content for students, staff, pastors, lay people and other interested people?   

The UNESCO-backed World Digital Library initiative gives an idea through a short promo video, of what the user experience of such a digital library could be like:

(NB: Cf. the site for the UNESCO-backed global initiative here, the Project Gutenberg archive here, an initiative in Michigan here, the University of California California Digital Library here, the digital library of India here, and a National Higher Education Commission initiative in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, here. The Kyoto University initiative, from 1997 on, has some useful pointers for design and development of a system. Brewster Kahle's TED Talk may give useful perspectives.)
The Kyoto University Digital Library has some interesting ideas on the underlying design for such a library, though of course technology has moved well beyond what would then have been world class resources only a decade or so ago:

The Kyoto University Digital Library, c. 2000
 (They also have an interesting encyclopedia initiative. Perhaps we should consider developing an "Encyclopedia Caribbeana" using Wiki technologies and a peer-reviewed, curator controlled article approach. Student term papers and research thesis projects could be used to help build detailed parts of this across time, perhaps through a collaboration of colleges across the region.)

A more comprehensive overview can be seen from a D-Library Magazine article on the Digital Library Manifesto, by Donatella Castelli et al:

Architecture of a Digital Library (D-Lib Magazine, fair use [Reference model site, here])

For instance, for our purposes, the Zenas Gerig Library at JTS in Jamaica -- cf case study report here -- has solid holdings, and a good staff in an excellent facility, with a handy fibre optic Internet link. (I wish to convey condolences to the family of this pioneer of theology education in our region, on his recent passing. Thank God for him, and for his life's work in the region as a missionary educator, that we are discussing building upon!)

This Library would make an excellent pilot site.

Nor, should we confine such content to theology titles.

For, shouldn't investment in second chance secondary education and skills building be a major priority, as well as support for teachers in institutions across the region (a great many of whom are Christians), even as once Sunday School was school on Sundays, in a gospel-based Christian environment?

Did that not help to feed the Great Awakening in the 1700's and early 1800's?

With these ideas bubbling, and after a bit of a chat with my friendly local librarian, I thought it would be useful to sketch out a few thoughts in a blog post. 

In the usual steps of thought:
1 --> Such a library could easily base its holdings on major formats such as PDF and EPUB, which are cross-platform. Already, Adobe advertises its Content Server 4 package as just this, for eBook publishers and lending libraries. (Depending, other formats could be used as well.)

2 --> Through a package like this, encrypted copies of ebooks can be sent over the Internet, with a time-stamped digital right. After the loan period, the book in effect evaporates, much as the Netflix movie renting service does with movies.

3 --> Users could sign up with the service, and pay a subscription to access lending materials, under reasonable terms of reference. Students -- seminary, college and university -- would be at one level, with certain privileges. 

4 --> Authenticated teachers and academic staff at another level, Pastors, and general lay people could become subscribers. All with appropriate terms and conditions. (Perhaps, too, funding partners might be willing to cover some capital costs and expenses and create endowments so that some levels could be free to users.)

5 --> Special access could be created for high school students and youth, with special holdings for first and second chance secondary education, bridging studies, and the Community College/Associate degree level, as well as technical and vocational education and training.

6 --> Major reference works, issues and apologetics materials could also be made available.

7 --> Periodicals and journals could be made available, with subscription access to sources like EBSO for those at suitable levels.

8 --> Part of the borrowing rights should include a limited right to copy and use resources under the fair use doctrine. Say, a right to electronically copy up to 10 pages or 5 % of a work, whichever is smaller. (Or whatever property rights lawyers will say is enough.)

9 --> It strikes me that it would be nice to have a facility to upgrade from loan to purchase as an eBook.

10 --> Similarly, a facility to do a print on demand paper copy for fee as this becomes available. (For education purposes, something like the risograph copy-duplicator system recently discussed in the KF blog CF series here, could be used to do class or course-sized lots, up to runs of 5,000.)

11 --> Portals to the Gutenberg archive and the like may be helpful.

12 --> I would of course include access to the free Bible Study software such as The Word or e-Sword etc. (Cf. my Christmas 2008 post on e-Sword, here. Still very good, though I have gravitated more to The Word. Also, cf. the resources for the draft AA CCS course in development, NCSTS, here.)

13 --> It may be useful to have a mall of services, courses and books etc accessible as a portal also.

14 --> The possibility of developing an electronic publisher (with print on demand capacity) should be considered.

15 --> And more.
This sort of initiative would immensely multiply the accessible resources for study, education and training in the region, especially for theology and related programmes; especially for distance mode programmes.

Which comes back to the AA CCS that I have been discussing.

So, let us think on this, and on how something like this could be made to work. END

1 comment:

Evgeny Selensky said...


I have published an English translation of my post that interested you. Please see here:


ES at UD