Friends of Quinn and the national digital library issue

friendsofquinn2If you’re here to learn more about Quinn Bradlee’s activities, check out the LibraryCity site.

A long essay there mentions his Friends of Quinn campaign for people with learning disabilities.

The LibraryCity post is actually about the need for two separate national digital library systems—one public and one academic—to serve often-starkly different library users. And the Friends site strengthens the case made there.

Friends’ designers have meticulously optimized the look, feel, and content of the Web pages for the precise audiences. Videos and an easy-to-enjoy layout will delight its visitors. In appearance, the Friends site is a far cry from WETA’s somewhat overlapping site with more of an academic look.

The academic approach is right for LD-related professionals such as teachers and psychologists, but it is wrong for the most of actual kids and many of their families. The look in many places is too cluttered, too complex. And the language isn’t always right for the actual people affected directly or indirectly by LD.

Perhaps even more importantly, the approach isn’t as personal as that of Friends of Quinn. Young Quinn has become a hero to the kids and the families, and he is making wise use of the publicity he has received from his book, A Different Life.

With just one national digital library system, prestigious and influential academics may prevail at the expense of public librarians who are accustomed to serving the public, including special-needs people like Quinn, rather than just higher education.

Nothing against academics; I’d like the two systems to be closely intertwined through shared content and linking and in other ways. And here’s to maximum funding for both!

But, especially with limited resources,  public librarians need a separate system to focus on their traditional priorities such as patrons with special needs.

Disclaimer: Please note that the above views on the need for two national digital library systems are my own. I don’t know how Quinn or others associated with Friends would stand on this question, although I’d hope they would be on my side.

And some recognition of an irony: No, the Scandals site isn’t for the same audience as Friends of Quinn’s. One Web analytics service says almost 30 percent of Scandals’s visitors have received grad-school educations—or twice the percentage normally found by the service.

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David Rothman

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