03 February 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

In London the British Library in a commercial partnership has two apps for smartphones and tablet computers.

Royal Manuscripts has 58 "outstanding royal manuscripts, 500 high-resolution images, expert videos." Their original app, Treasures, has "over 100 unique or rare items: the original version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the world’s oldest bible, priceless hand-painted medieval books, Nelson’s battle plan for Trafalgar, sketches by Leonardo, a 1664 plan of New York, ‘The Tyger’ in William Blake’s hand, and many more... arranged in easy-to-browse sections: Science, History, Music, Literature, Faith and Religions, Maps and Views, and Illuminated Manuscripts. The Treasures app, with updates, one of The Sunday Times top 500 apps, is discounted until 10 February at £1.49 (iPhone and Android) or £1.99 (iPad).

Check out other entrepreneurial initiatives of the British Library.

In Ottawa, Library and Archives Canada has placed online 14 photographs in a Flickr set on Prime Minister Louis St Laurent, an exciting enough initiative to warrant a posting on the LAC blog.

I'm told that LAC, nominally open to commercial partnerships, is hidebound by bureaucratic delay and overhead such as to discourage all but the most determined. With present regulations LAC managers have no incentive to enter such partnerships. As a consequence economic and cultural benefit that could be spun off from the LAC collection is being denied us.

So instead of growing the pie LAC is slicing a diminishing pie differently. As posted on the LAC website service to those whose needs require them to travel to the main physical client service site at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa is being reduced, and access restricted, in a move that appears to be moving toward making service so inconvenient as to discourage visits. Then they can claim, as they already are, that demand is declining so they can cut services and hours even further. Will we reach the stage where service will only be provided from a hut on the Rideau Canal skateway during Winterlude?

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