Friday, August 26, 2005

The mission of the digital library consortium

The Greater Cleveland History Digital Library Consortium has approved a mission statement, to guide its future activities and help explain its purpose to the wider community. While not as difficult as approving the Iraqi constitution is proving to be, there’s always differing viewpoints on which elements to include and in which order to list them. The final version reads like this:

The mission of the GCHDLC is to build a collaborative infrastructure that provides public access to digitized historical and cultural heritage resources and sustains local history digitization projects in Northeastern Ohio.

Some members believed that the wording was too vague, “public access” being something everyone provides on the web, whereas others thought that a certain amount of vagueness freed us from trying to perform the laundry list of specifics that others were putting forth.

One point that came up was a goal of “centralizing” access and/or providing a “portal” for such access. While centralization seems natural enough, it was felt to imply a view of the web and our collaborations that we wanted to avoid. We felt that the strength of the web comes from our ability to create a big, uncentralized, network of resources, which everyone would be free to use and provide access to through the particular lens of their individual interests and purposes. A monolithic entity is not what we’re building, we decided, so we shouldn’t inadvertently use buzz words that seemed to imply that we were.

Anyway, this is the mission statement of the consortium, until such time as it proves inadequate or inspiration strikes someone. The whole process of arriving at this formulation has been beneficial, as it forced us to debate our purpose and our plans, and while the specifics will evolve with time, we hope this statement will be flexible enough to keep pace for a while.

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