Saturday, November 5, 2011

Caribbean Libraries need to lead in Digital Publishing

I spent some time looking at some multimedia that some library students created and their documentation regarding the assignment. As I did so, my thoughts turned to the ways in which Caribbean librarians can lead the Caribbean in presenting and publishing  information digitally.

Caribbean libraries need to publish digitally because, much of our own information is not yet published either in print or digitally. A lot of our information is also published by outsiders, who are not familiar with our own interests and unique perspective. Further, being published outside, the cost of libraries owning materials published on our own cultures becomes expensive, requiring foreign exchange for acquisitions.

Due to this situation, our most important and affordable local sources of information are easily found in the vertical files, where we have collected, brochures, newspaper clippings and other ephemeral publications.  Vertical files are important because not all of Caribbean material will be published in books, but more so in ephemeral newspapers or magazines. Sometimes our newspapers and magazine publishers decide to convert their published information compiled over the years into books. However, for the most part, our publishers cannot afford to undertake the cost of publishing information that is locally needed, but expensive to produce and the publishers are not certain of getting sales to recover the costs.

As such, libraries should move from just producing print based vertical files to more digital libraries or editions of these vertical files. Doing this, they can publish these to their own internal computers for users to access, or on their websites, if they can clear copyright restrictions. An in house multimedia information retrieval system, digital library or electronic vertical file will allow for digital preservation of our materials. We can utilise multimedia to compile various articles and items in our vertical file into a digital format that  can help preserve the information found.

Further, many libraries compile and create displays that last for a month and are then removed, without being put in a permanent storage medium so that future generations can access the information from the display. We can rethink this through the creation of digital exhibitions, using multimedia.

We also need to make our online resources easy, simple, convenient and available, when our users/audience need it. Currently, our publishers and those who produce publications or documents make them so difficult to identify and locate.

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