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UK Campaigners Claim That Millions Have Been Wasted Creating Nationwide Library Website 

The UK’s public libraries have been facing major difficulties within the past few years as the government have been indecisive and delayed plans on how to spend millions of pounds for funding a nationwide library website. 

The website was initially called the “Single Digital Presence” (SDP) but was later renamed LibraryOn. LibraryOn is one website that was made to act as a hub for all public libraries on one website, and allow the public to access collections across the country, according to reports from The Guardian.

Campaigners this past weekend, however, have criticized the government and the British Library and Arts Council England (ACE) over the lack of development of LibraryOn, and many are beginning to lose their patience. 

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On the government’s and ACE’s end, the delays in development are due to the fact that in England alone, there are only 150 library authorities that each have their own independent technology and management systems. The LibraryOn plan has been in the works for the past 10 years, and while government funds have been allocated to ACE and the British Library, little action has been done. 

The libraries campaigner, Tim Coates, told the Observer that these failures by the government are disheartening and disappointing. 

“We’re now 10 years later and – after several reviews and studies and about £6m – they have singularly failed even to decide what it is they ought to do.”

“Their obsession with consultation with ‘the sector’ has meant they have failed to grasp what people want and will use – which, simply, is easy access to the extensive library collections across the country. It should be like the website for John Lewis – that, wherever you are, it doesn’t depend on their individual shops,” Coates stated

The plan for a national digital resource for the UK’s libraries was initially introduced in recommendations in William Sieghart’s 2014 Independent Report for England, which was commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS). 

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The Guardian also quoted an eminent arts figure who chose to remain anonymous: 

“It’s appalling. The government’s done nothing since that report. Libraries have been left behind in the 1970s. The digital revolution hasn’t really impacted them. They are stuck behind their own local authority IT system. The point of the digital presence would be to empower them.”

“We look at the way other nations are investing in their children and their futures through libraries and wonder what the hell we’re doing,” said Nick Poole, the chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 

Poole also explained that within the past 10 years, 15% of libraries have closed, and another 15% are dependent on volunteers to keep them up and running. 

He went on to say that the need for a digital presence for the UK’s library system has been present since the rise of computers, but the delays in development are also due to fears that more libraries will close. 

“We want to see really strong face-to-face libraries supported and extended by a really strong digital scheme,” he added. 

LibraryOn has received around £3.8 million in funding since 2018, which is when the British Library took over management of the project.

Electric Guitar

Radiohead Launches Digital “Public Library” to Chronicle Band’s History

Radiohead is perhaps one of the world’s most influential rock bands of all time, as its groundbreaking records like “OK Computer,” “Kid A,” and “In Rainbows” have revolutionized not just the genre of alternative rock but also the way music is distributed and consumed. For years, however, the website radiohead.com has been relatively barren, including only links to buy records, merchandise, and concert tickets. The band has decided to change that by launching the “Radiohead Public Library,” which chronicles the band’s history by presenting a collage of various projects the band has worked on as well as documents relating to these projects, including promotional materials, recordings of concerts, and more. The website functions not only as a historical archive, but as a method for fans of the band to offer their support by purchasing music or merchandise, as many of the items presented on the “public library” contain links to online stores.

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Much of the content provided on the “public library” contains artwork produced by Stanley Donwood, a longtime collaborator of the band who is known for his abstract, psychedelic artwork that has given the band’s album artwork its distinctive look. The artwork for the “King of Limbs” record, for instance, depicts otherworldly ghostlike figures among a woodland backdrop, matching the album’s themes of nature and alienation, and the artwork for “OK Computer” depicts an abstract representation of a highway, corresponding with the record’s themes of modernity and transportation. While the “public library” offers visitors an opportunity to purchase music and merchandise, it also offers a lot of free content, including free streams of music and recordings of previous concerts. While the collection of content available on the digital library is expansive, it does not contain everything, as some limited-edition music releases as well as solo projects created by the band’s members are not included.

Radiohead is no stranger to unusual methods of distributing their content. “In Rainbows,” which came out in 2007 long before the advent of streaming services like Spotify, was released via a website that allowed customers to pay whatever they felt was appropriate, including nothing, in exchange for a link to download the songs. The band’s experiment ended up being tremendously successful, as “In Rainbows” became one of Radiohead’s most critically-acclaimed and financially successful albums. “The King of Limbs,” meanwhile, was offered in a unique “newspaper edition,” which included a CD, two vinyl records, and a newspaper included fictional and poetic news stories. While “The King of Limbs” was mostly well-received, this experimental distribution method proved to be less successful than the one pioneered for “In Rainbows.”

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Given the band’s decades-long history and the large number of albums they’ve released over the years, it’s no surprise that Radiohead is interested in taking a look back at their expansive career and sharing their history with fans. The “public library” also represents an economic opportunity for the band, as they are reissuing old t-shirts as well as other merchandise on their store. Given the band’s massive and enthusiastic fan base, this merchandise is likely to sell out quickly, so if you’re interested in picking up a Radiohead-themed t-shirt or hoodie, now is the time to do so. 

Streaming Services

The 5 Top Free Movie Streaming Services

There’s no question that streaming video technology has fundamentally changed the world of entertainment, as physical entertainment media has all but disappeared in favor of on-demand content delivered over the Internet in exchange for a monthly subscription fee. Subscriptions for these services can add up, however, particularly during a time when content is made exclusive to competing services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, and now Disney Plus, requiring pop culture aficionados to subscribe to multiple platforms to keep up with the most-talked-about stories of the moment. That being said, a tremendous amount of content can now also be found on free, legal, ad-supported services which provide valuable alternatives for those who don’t mind ads but want more out of their television-watching experience. While these platforms won’t host the most recent, blockbuster productions, they often include classics from the history of cinema, making them a valuable resource for fans of the storytelling medium.

Plex, for instance, has recently expanded its business to include free access to stream a wide selection of content. While Plex has long been well-known as a platform for streaming media hosted on one’s desktop computer or server to any number of other devices, the service now also grants access to a wide variety of classics such as Rain Man and The Terminator. Considering the fact that accessing these critically-acclaimed titles from the 20th century requires only that users sign up for an account, taking advantage of Plex can enable hours of entertainment without spending a dime.

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Another service, Crackle, offers a similarly impressive collection of titles and doesn’t even require users to make an account, though the option is available for those who wish to sync their watching history across multiple devices. In addition to classic titles, Crackle includes some recent movies as well, such as Captain Phillips and Whiplash as well as several popular TV shows. As the service is broadly compatible with a wide range of devices, requiring little more than a modern web browser to function, it’s likely worth checking out.

IMdB TV, a service owned by Amazon and previously called FreeDrive, makes for another worthy Netflix alternative. The platform gives access to a number of titles that may be difficult to find elsewhere, particularly for free, including David Fincher’s excellent The Social Network and classics like The Shining and Groundhog day. However, the service only works on Windows and Fire TV devices and requires users to create an IMdB account.

Though its library of content is not as impressive as others on this list, Tubi offers a polished and streamlined interface as well as access to thousands of movies and TV shows, which include critically-acclaimed selections like Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Nightcrawler. Similarly, the Walmart-owned Vudu lets users stream a selection of titles, but also gives users the option of renting or buying films from the service directly for a small fee. While the platform’s selection of ad-supported content is understandably less than stellar, the option to rent or buy recent hits like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood makes Vudu an attractive option, particularly because the first rental on Vudu is only 99 cents.

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Lastly, Hoopla is a service that, in coordination with your local library, allows you to digitally “borrow” films as well as other media like music and eBooks using your library card. There are some obvious drawbacks to this service; not everyone has a library card, and not every public library works with Hoopla to enable access to content. That being said, Hoopla is the only service on this list not to serve ads, as the business is funded by library systems. Also, its selection of content is unique relative to other platforms, particularly when it comes to audiobooks and eBooks, which may in fact be the most valuable aspect of the service. Public libraries are an under-utilized free knowledge resource, but with services like Hoopla that enable easy and free access to library materials, that could soon change.

The variety of streaming media services, both free and paid, can be overwhelming, especially because navigating the enormous selection of (mostly mediocre) titles available on each platform can be tiring. That being said, free, legal access to media of all sorts via the Internet has never been greater, and many hidden gems await those who are willing to navigate various services and libraries.