May 18, 2022

David Rothman On a National Digital-Library System

David Rothman has been talking and writing about e-books, digital libraries, and related topics for a long time.  He was the founder of TeleRead, a site that focuses on ebooks, ereaders, and related topics that’s now run Paul Biba.

Rothman is also a cofounder (with Tom Peters) of the new, Here’s a bit of background about the group from their web site:

national digital library initiative is underway at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and we hope it will lead to a genuine public library system online serving the entire country, not just the elite—even though we’re also in favor of well-funded research libraries. The new LibraryCity is an ad hoc group focused on these goals. If you’re in a rural area, don’t let “City” scare you—in the virtual world everyone should be able to enjoy “urban” amenities.

Rothman recently has this commentary published by The Chronicle of  Higher Education about the development of a national digital library. It’s must read material. He has done an excellent job asking many important questions that need must be discussed and hopefully answered.

Here are a few comments from the commentary about what LibraryCity believes are important if/when a national digital library is built.

Among other things, a well-stocked online national public-library system would help make American students more competitive with their counterparts in other countries. It could also help correct the many deficiencies of library e-books today, as documented by the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies, which has wisely suggested a national buying pool to keep costs down and help libraries control their own destinies, rather than just tagging along behind vendors. A common procurement system of one kind or another would be a natural component of a national digital-library system.


In fact, the system should offer everything such as textbooks, carefully vetted scholarly papers, user-contributed photographs, local oral histories, and multimedia job-training materials, as well as other directly practical content. We mustn’t neglect digital textbooks, multimedia, and other how-to content for students, small-business people, factory workers, and others.


The system should allow easy and permanent linking from social networks and other Web sites, too, so that it is truly blended with the Internet, especially the parts so dear to young people. It should adhere to e-book standards, so that electronic text is readable centuries from now.

That’s only a small portion of David Rothman’s 33oo word column.

You can access the full text here.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.