Librarians as Gatekeepers

The plenary session of JCDL this morning was Jonathan Zittrain (Harvard Law School and University of Oxford) entitled “Open Information: Redaction, Restriction, and Removal.” This was so good that I couldn’t stand to stop and take notes. I did write down one bit: “Libraries are the best hope…for the controlled release of information.” His point was that the library profession is a trusted gatekeeper — librarians have a track record of providing orderly access to shared information resources and taking seriously the responsibility to provide access to those resources under the terms with which they were acquired. (Although there was a great deal of humming in the room at one key point of the presentation — those that were there know what I mean.) Can publishers entrust content to us such that the library controls the DRM that protects the content? Would publishers be willing to give the library the content in an unrestricted form with the promise, in the form of a legal agreement, that the library will apply the appropriate DRM at the appropriate time? Could that be a new role for libraries in this new DRM-happy society?

(This post was updated on 19-Jun-2006.)