The future for the Library – Library of Congress and Flickr?

Interesting report by UCL saying, as an article in the Times Higher Education puts it, “Researchers’ web use could make libraries redundant”

It certainly warns of the possibilities for the Internet to offer more choice to researchers, in more flexible ways then the physical library. But what a call to action this should be! The Libraries and archives are rich with content that can help in so many contexts – learning, research, exploration, serendipity, interrogation, story telling etc.

I love libraries, for me, they can be cultural spaces and at their best are as vital as the best galleries or museums. (I am lucky to live in Brighton whose library is beautiful and vital).

Brighton Jubilee Library

Maybe they could take a lesson from The Library of Congress in the US who have just done a fabulous project with Flickr. Described as “Your opportunity to contribute to describing the world’s public photo collections”.


What is interesting here is the historical imagery, that previously was hard to find, is made available to a huge existing online community. The photographic community within Flickr already engage in higher quality tagging and user generated content and Flickr already has a lot of ’similar’ contemporary content with which these historical images can be linked. This puts both sets of images into different contexts.

Of course, the other important part of the equation is that the Flickr’s API opens up interesting possibilities for combining the info into other projects or services. Innovation at its best.