The Universal Library Revisited

lectureFor those of us who are incessantly scanning the Internet in search of quality material concerning scholarly research and cultural analysis, I am glad to ease your frenzy by drawing your attention to some new online resources that have been launched recently.


First of all, YouTube started an educational channel: YouTube EDU. The campus content of more than a 100 colleges that already had channels on YouTube has been brought together on one page. The obvious benefit of this aggregation is of course the increased search function this platform offers, where these university lectures were much harder to find in the popular mass (mess?) of the general YouTube site content.


In the directory you can find which universities participate. Strange enough these are almost exclusively US universities as far as I can see (and an Indian), where are Europe’s finest for example? What about incorporating, that also has a channel on YouTube? Or the European Graduate School (EGS) channel? Or authors@google? Of course we need to take into account that the platform only launched a few days ago, but let’s look at some features that could be improved or that still need to be thought over.


What about the possibility of searching by genre or subject? Sites like do offer this very convenient service. Another question concerning these kind of meta lecture-iiiportals or aggregators of quality online video content, is what to include. It seems that YouTube EDU only includes content from universities. In an ideal situation, should we have a platform that distinguishes between university lectures (graduate and undergraduate?), lectures given at conferences and symposia, and lectures for the general public? Should we develop some sort of quality standards for online lectures or video content? For now the only quality criteria seem to be most viewed, most subscribed, latest addition or highest rated, all user generated quality measurements, next to the occasional editorial picks or favorites. Of course their is the brand name and reputation of the different universities and of the scholars given the lectures, but these for now seem to be the only filter functions, which to my feeling are still rather arbitrary.


But still, it is a step in the right direction and as far as YouTube EDU is concerned I am definitely watching the lecture underneath.



This feeling of randomness is also brought about by the growing amount of platforms for quality content. Via Techcrunch, I learned about Academic Earth, also newly launched, which collects content from Yale, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Princeton, and thus also functions as an aggregation platform. Here you can search by subject, by instructor and by university, and it has a playlist section which features thematic collections of lectures selected by their editors. Another bonus point is that the interface lay out is very soothing and calm. As far as content is concerned, I do not want to be too morbid, but this 26 courses lecture series on Death (with short summaries of every lecture – very nice!) actually looks very interesting.


A final newly launched resource I would like to focus on is the World Digital Library (WDL), which will be launched on April the 21st by the UNESCO, Library of Congress and 32 partners. You can see the prototype here. From the project website:


wdl“The World Digital Library will make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, archi­tectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials. The objectives of the World Digital Library are to promote international and inter-cultural understanding and awareness, provide resources to educators, expand non-English and non-Western content on the Internet, and to contribute to scholarly research.”



You can see a website demonstration here. Some additional information from the press release:


“The WDL will function in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and will include content in a great many other languages. Browse and search features will facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration on the site. Descriptions of each item and videos with expert curators speaking about selected items will provide context for users, and are intended to spark curiosity and encourage both students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.”


Next to a European library (Europeana), we now have the opportunity to find, search and explore the hidden treasures of digitized library and archive collections from cultural institutions from all over the world. What a wonder, what a great potential knowledge base! I for one am very curious about the site. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed they have a more fortunate launch than Europeana.



2 comments on “The Universal Library Revisited

  1. Plato
    June 14, 2009

    Thank you for the wonderful article on the Universal Library.

  2. jannekeadema1979
    June 14, 2009

    Hi Plato! No thanks needed, I am glad you liked it!
    If you are interested in the whole online information revolution and related resources you might find some more of your liking here:
    And here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Open Reflections is created by Janneke Adema



%d bloggers like this: