Saturday, June 09, 2007

Left-Libertarian Library Proposal

I'm in the midst of putting together a first-stage proposal for a digital library of left-libertarian and related material, a more "walkable" version of my Libertarian Labyrinth. I would be interested in input at this stage from folks who see themselves using, or perhaps contributing to, such an archive. For those unfamiliar with my general archiving project, I've been amassing public domain anarchist texts, with a heavy emphasis on William B. Greene and the mutualist tradition, in the Labyrinth archive and at the From the Libertarian Library blog. My collection strategy has been to ignore questions of ideological purity and orthodoxy as much as practicable, and follow connections from work to work, building contexts and, hopefully, some fuller picture of just what it is we inherit when we claim connection to the anarchist and libertarian movements. I've experimented with document formats, index types, hyperlinking strategies, and the like. I feel like I have probably taken the ad hoc organization of the current archive+blogs arrangement about as far as it will usefully go, and am now looking at the transition to a standardized archive, probably using the Greenstone Digital Library Software.

My goals for that next phase are to:
  • promote knowledge of broadly "left-libertarian" traditions
  • preserve scarce texts, images, etc in digital form
  • encode the material in formats likely to survive changes in standards and technology
  • provide tools for full text search
  • provide hypertext links so that, for example, debates can be followed from source to source
  • provide annotation and commentary
  • generate texts which can be easily published in print
  • generate resources which can easily be incorporated into self-study courses, etc
  • facilitate new translations of untranslated work
  • produce, encourage, and/or host works demonstrating the usefulness of digital archives
  • produce a digital library of a quality sufficient to enter into partnership with other institutions to further the above goals
I'm imagining combining a standards-compliant upgrade of the archive I'm already compiling, together with the construction of a "virtual library" of links to other resources, with the whole thing available both online and on CD-ROM. I'm exploring software options for related projects: MediaWiki for cooperative translation work; self-study software; etc.

Initially, the collections in the new library would probably be those already underway:
  • works by and about William B. Greene
  • works by and about Joshua King Ingalls
  • works related to the land bank and mutual bank movements
  • a Josiah Warren archive (in cooperation with Crispin Sartwell's project)
  • an archive of articles from Benjamin R. Tucker's Liberty and Radical Review
I would also love to hear from folks about their preferences and priorities, with regard to which public domain materials they consider most important to archive.

This is a long-term project, which I will pursue as time and other factors allow, but it is one to which I am entirely committed. Let me know how I can develop the most useful resource possible.

4 comments:

Jeremy said...

What are you doing for hosting? Let me know if I can provide any technical assistance. LeftLibertarian.org is at your disposal.

Shawn P. Wilbur said...

Thanks, Jeremy. I haven't attempted a Greenstone installation anywhere yet, but it might be worth putting together a "beta" collection and giving it a try sometime soon.

Anonymous said...

Why use Greenstone over a wiki? Wikisource.org does a nice job with large documents. I have experience with Mediawiki and would be happy to assist with design/development under that platform. - Scott

Shawn P. Wilbur said...

I've installed Mediawiki and worked with it in a number of contexts, but I'm not sold on it as library software. Greenstone is really designed to handle library metadata and to work with markup schemes like the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI). There are some projects related to the archive that I have assumed would be better adapted to a wiki (a collaborative translation site, for example).