Everybody's Libraries

July 2, 2008

Celebrating freedom, in various ways

Filed under: online books — John Mark Ockerbloom @ 11:54 am

This week marks both the anniversary of Canadian confederation (Canada Day, July 1), and the anniversary of American independence (Independence Day, July 4, or should that be July 2?) This week I’m also finishing up subject cataloging of online books on both countries (or at least, all the ones for which I previously had less precise US and Canadian history subjects automatically assigned.) So if you’d like to read up on Canada or United States history, there are plenty of free online books in various relevant topics you can browse through.

There’s a lot more that I could potentially index, so please suggest titles or topics you’d like to see. (I sometimes find suggestions myself, such as this book on India’s history recommended in this blog comment, but it’s generally quicker and more reliable to tell me directly.)

Even if I can’t list the precise title you’re asking for, it’s often possible to find similar titles if I know what kinds of books you’re interested in. I recently received a request for a few published diaries that are still under copyright and that I couldn’t list, but knowing the person’s interests, I could point them to this subject map, where you can browse through published diaries from all kinds of people, times, and places online, arranged by subject.

I’m very thankful to the folks who put the materials online that I list. You never know when something you post will suddenly become important or attract widespread interest. Who would have guessed, for instance, that a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques to extract false confessions would become relevant to present-day investigations of interrogations at Guantanamo? Thanks to the folks at PubMedCentral, we have not only that article, but the full journal issue on various aspects of Communist prisoner mistreatment (which I only wish were not so relevant today) in which this article appeared, and indeed, nearly the entire run of that medical journal. (I’ll list the journal later today in the serials listings of The Online Books Page.) The articles in that joural issue remind us of some of the oppressions that Americans have fought against since our country’s founding, and that I hope we can defeat again.

Sometimes the digitizers need a little help. A while back, legal threats led to the shutdown of the International Music Score Library Project, based in Canada and the US. The scores in the library were public domain in those countries, but cease-and-desist notices were sent based on the possibility of scores being downloaded by musicians in countries with longer copyright terms. I’m happy to hear that the library is back online, thanks in part to legal support from both Canada and the US. I’ll be adding this library to my archives and indexes page today as well.

Increasingly, good information resources on just about any subject are freely and legitimately available online, or can be. As we celebrate freedom this week in much of North America, let’s also remember and thank the folks who help free knowledge and culture online.

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