Monday, November 10, 2008

.museum beat .library to the punch, by about eight years

ICANN is opening up generic Top Level Domains, and no one really knows if there will an Oklahoma-style land rush on names. I'm going to guess, though, that the high price for an entry ticket ($185,000) will keep the list of competitors short.

What could .library do for the library community? Would it usher in an era of unprecedented online use of library resources? Would we suddenly be swamped with IM reference questions, and would our site counters register huge jumps in visits? If the .museum is any indication, we may want to save our money. Back in September 2002 .museum was put into existence thanks to funds of the International Council of Museums and the J. Paul Getty Trust (not sure of the price tag, but I doubt it was $185,000!). I think the only way we could make the .library work for us would be tight controls on who gets in (think user-friendly and content-rich) and by hosting ads on the sites. There, I said it. Ads. Historically, however, neither of these ideas has been embraced by the library community.

Ouch. We innovators, we techiest of techies, we guardians of the printed word. We have been defeated for so long and have not even realized it. That's right. The museum folks beat us in the domain name race by over eight years. Eight...years.

Here's an idea: we could do our best to persuade Mr. Bill Gates to foot the bill. We would need a big backer, and Mr. Gates has been a supporter of libraries in the past (at least for Microsoft-related items). Think about it: Carnegie was the brick-and-mortar library champion of his day; Gates could be the URL-domain-name champion of this century.

To be sure, the registrations for a .lib or .library would have to be only for proven library institutions (as they are currently with .museum). And then comes an important question: To sustain themselves, would the subscribing libraries have to run ads? Oh, horror of horror, those ads.

The always reliable Information Today covered this a few months ago.

What are your thoughts?


Trevor said...

Why not? The ad revenues could be returned, at least in part, to the libraries' operations budgets. Was that what you had in mind?

Dynamic Librarian said...

I have been of the opinion that one of the unique things that libraries have going for them is that they do not, on a large scale, seek out or accept advertising dollars.

Accepting ads on .lib websites from the perspective of a sustainable business model, but would it be compromising what libraries stand for? Would directors and boards at some point be swayed by large ad campaigns to make a move that would be against the best interest of patrons?

I suppose a very distant but similar example would be the soft drink companies in our middle and high schools. Have those entities corrupted our youth? Should libraries be advocating V8 instead of Pepsi in the mental vending machines that are library websites?