On September 6, 2011, staff and management of the Law Library of Congress listened with much interest to Law Librarian of Congress Roberta Shaffer as she shared with us her vision for a World Law Library for the 21st Century. She reiterated the Law Library’s commitment to acquire, preserve, and provide access to a universal collection of legal knowledge: the second goal in the Law Library of Congress Strategic Plan Fiscal Years 2011– 2016. More information on the vision can be found in a recent paper, Removing Boundaries: Building the One World Law Library, that she co-authored with Robert Newlen, Assistant Law Librarian for Collection, Outreach, and Services, and Cynthia Jordan, Senior Writer-Editor, at Law Library of Congress, and that was submitted for the 77th IFLA General Conference and Assembly held in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
So what is the connection to the ideas of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook, Israel’s first Chief Rabbi? A recent Israeli Ministry of Education public announcement of titled Adjusting the Education System to the 21st Century, the Vision and the Rational, cites Rabbi Kook’s famous statement, perhaps made ahead of his time, that “in every generation one must learn to use the tools that resonate with that generation.” Citing this global (and not necessarily religious) idea, the Ministry called for adjusting Israel’s education system to the 21st century by utilizing Information Communications Technology (ICT). The Ministry’s announcement further states that the education system it envisions is one in which the content and the information taught are relevant to the changing reality.
According to information published in Israeli media, the Ministry would provide subsidies for the replacement of print school books with digital books within five years. In addition, starting from the 2012/13 school year the Ministry would not approve any books that do not contain an additional digital format. The Ministry’s plan supersedes a Private Member Bill submitted to the Knesset in March 2011, titled the Digital Study Books Bill, 5771-2011. That Bill’s explanatory notes state that it was designed to provide an interim period for phasing out printed books and for their replacement with digital publications.
We can see, then, that the wheels of change continue to turn as they have done since time immemorial. Human communications have evolved. In the words of the Law Librarian of Congress, “digitization is the container”; in the words of Rabbi Kook, “tools that resonate.” Whatever the techniques are, the Library of Congress is on board.