Digital library – Driven by readers

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Broad-ranging digital archives will be available for free to users at a new online library launched by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, thanks to a $4 million gift from the Red Hat Center.

The new Web library, known as ibiblio, aims to build its already considerable electronic collection and visitor traffic – and to promote the idea of making online materials available for free.

Durham-based Red Hat, which markets Linux – an “open-source” operating system that anyone can modify — endowed the Red Hat Center to champion open-source thinking.

That thinking is based on the idea that information and technology should be free and easy to find, use, manipulate and understand.

Anyone can use material at ibiblio or contribute material to it.

“Our goal is to be more reader-driven,” says Paul Jones, a research associate professor at UNC-CH who directs the new site.

Ibiblio – which calls itself “The Public’s Library” — inherits several hundred individual collections of electronic archival material from MetaLab, a site that UNC-CH launched in 1992 under the name SunSITE.

Those archives total more than 120 gigabits of data, or the equivalent of more than 120 million pages of text.

Jones, who created MetaLab, says the site already receives an average of 1.5 million requests a day for information, placing it among the 10 busiest servers academic servers.

Archives currently at ibiblio include free applications and operating systems software; graphics and art; fiction; poetry; literature; music; religion; politics; and cultural studies. Streaming audio and video also are available.

Specific collections include KGB archives, documents on the American South and songs posted by Roger McGuinn, a musician formerly with the Byrds rock group.

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