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My goal in this chapter is to advance the argument that access denied to resources in digital form is a more serious, and more solvable, problem than one might glean from the literature. Digital networks make access possible to a degree that would have been unimaginable in the analog era. What was once a mix of technological and economic constraints on access is now reduced to legal, rather than technological, constraints. The library community should more explicitly commit itself to the goal of ubiquitous access to digital content.

The role of the library in public life should be to minimize or eliminate these legal barriers to access and use through a mixture of creative and fair licensing arrangements, and policy advocacy on behalf of those currently denied access. To begin to solve this problem, libraries should develop a more robust network consciousness, by which I mean they should realign institutional priorities and resources to explicitly position individual libraries and consortia as network nodes through which patrons can access networked resources or as a site of publication of networked resources. This argument recognizes that a network consciousness should not be the sum total of a library’s attentional focus. For the library has also been, and remains, an intensely local institution whose physicality through its architecture, geography, and relation to its analog resources are as important to library patrons as ever. I am convinced that libraries are capable of meeting the challenges of balancing their local and global roles if institutional leaders make this a priority.



Publication Date


Book Title

Minds Alive: Libraries and Archives Now


University of Toronto


libraries, open access, digital resources, archives


Intellectual Property Law

Libraries' Shifting Roles and Responsibilities in the Networked Age