Miguel Helft of the New York Times asks, "Is the tantalizing dream of a universal library dead?" (Published: April 3, 2011).
Is it? Maybe not. In March of this year, a New York federal district court judge, Denny Chin (now sitting as a judge in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit), acknowledged that “the creation of a universal digital library (by Google) would benefit many,” but said that the proposed agreement (by Google) was “not fair, adequate and reasonable.” because, "it would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly” and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners". NYT 22 March 2011
There are those who do want to have a universal digital library - without commercial advertisers. Europe is already far ahead of the United States in an effort to digitize information to be read in a commercial free web site, Europeana, Europeana that already has some 15 million "works of art, books, music and video held by the cultural institutions of member countries".
"Unlike in Europe, where national libraries are usually centralized and backed by governments, the United States has a disparate network of independent institutions that have different missions and serve different populations", and is playing catch up in this field.
"...the settlement (with Google that) was rejected in federal court last month, in part because it turned copyright law on its head, giving Google the right to profit from a book unless its author or publisher objected. This was a particular problem for “orphan books,” out of print titles whose authors and publishers cannot be easily found. Since no one else would be able to obtain a license to those books, Google would have a de facto monopoly on millions of texts.
The digital public library will face the same problem" NYT 3 April 2011
No matter what happens, who does it or how fast this project evolves, the affect on our libraries as we know them will be profound. I suggest that we will be well placed in our communities when we plan properly for and develop spaces for people to read and be together in our libraries. The delivery system for knowledge and information will change but we humans will always seek each other out for company and discourse. Libraries are already here and changing to meet these human needs.