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Posted by on Feb 3, 2010

Korean Digital Library: Review (please consider a name change) and Suggestions

In keeping with all things digital library,  I wanted to briefly mention the new Korean Digital Library that has recently opened (both online and as a physical location) that seems like a real step in the right direction. The only real problem I can sense is the comedic fodder provided by the name of the library. But more on that later.

It seems like an interesting attempt to portal all information resources on the national scale allowing, presumably, for greater access to the average citizen. Advantages are greater ease of use for the average patron, greater cost savings (presumably as the nation would act as a consortium and further assuming they include paid resources at some point), and just overall point of access (people know exactly where to go to begin their information searching).

My paranoid Western mindset also makes me think this structure would be much easier to censor, but whether implicit (as an access issue) or explicit, censorship is still censorship and it happens everywhere. Either way, this is a moot point as the information currently provided online is limited to free and open access resources.

According to the Digital Library, which shall remain nameless for the time being:

“Users can access master’s and doctoral graduation theses, research data, and meeting data produced by major foreign organizations in digital format.”

And the list of resources they are mining from is extensive (number-wise). What is striking about this list is that there isn’t a single Korean resource on there.

Which really got me thinking a bit. What is it about  Digital Library that made me think it would be specific to cultural assets or special collections or archival materials? Is that a culturally-specific view of what the phrase digital library means? Generally, the majority of digital libraries I encounter are of the special collection variety. A place to gather all kinds of materials that are presented electronically, materials that often tell a story about a slice of history, a place, or some thing. I would view the Korean Digital Library as more of a database than a library, but what really is the difference?

Korea views the term differently (in a perfectly valid way). They see it as literally a digital collection of information from outside sources (at least in this manifestation), data with specific and well defined uses (statistics, theses, etc.). I am curious to see how this develops online, but their physical facilities (scroll down to see images) seem more in line with how I would define a digital library. Kudos to them for trying to make the library experience more interactive, more kinaesthetic.

Korea, if you are listening, what I would like to see is a Korean Digital Library that tries to tell the narrative of your country, the story of your people. I want audio, images, video, interactives. I want to hear the music, listen to the speeches, see the insides of your houses. I want to trace the path of your greats like 이순신 or 세종대왕 or 태조 with maps, writings, routes, commands, and inventions. I want to soak in your legends and stand in both disbelief and understanding as your past informs your present. And I want to do all of this from the comfort of my computer. Does this already exist, Korea? If so, point me there and I will remain your biggest fan.

And so to the name. The people who bring you this all thought that the Korean Digital Library should be named something that is easy to remember. In all their infinite wisdom and their utter lack of sarcasm, they have brought you this:

Dibrary

So, anyone who works there is a Dibrarian. Rules for the Dibrary: Loud talking will result in death. Returning overdue materials will result in admonishment. And then death. Death is the constant in the Dibrary. Accept this.

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