Students Only: Partying in the Black Diamond Library in Copenhagen

Black Diamond Student Party

While Copenhagen is famous for its architectural flare, one of the city’s famous landmarks is the “Black Diamond“. Built as an extension to the city’s ancient Royal Danish Library, the Black Diamond is a neo-modern 7-story addition which extends from the old library building to the city’s harbor/waterfront. It was finished in 1999.  Granted its nickname due to the polished black marble and dark glass used to design the building, it houses a theater, armies of book shelves and a classy waterfront cafe.

Black Diamond Student Party

The library holds a yearly event with a local students group which puts on a fantastic evening of music, drinks, and social mingling. The event is limited exclusively to students and their guests. This year it showcased a variety of wonderful musical performances ranging from a lone cello performance to well known hip-hop artists.

Black Diamond Student Party

While the individual library wings were closed (understandably) to the general audience, all of the open spaces were made available and filled with wild lighting, musical performances, and space to mix and mingle.  With large open halls and an acoustically friendly atrium crisscrossed at different points by flying bridges it made for a delightful experience. It is also interesting the difference a legal drinking age of 18 plays in enabling these sorts of events.  While still possible in the US, the lack of a need to ID, wristband, and police the event as well as the more responsible drinking behavior among undergraduate-aged students that results from the lower drinking age makes a huge difference. While you could hold a similar event in the US, it would definitely be far more challenging logistically and have a different ambiance as a result.

Black Diamond Student Party

The main performers were set up on the flying bridge that cut across the center of the atrium at the 3rd story.  It served as the perfect stage as the rest of the atrium consisted of wrap around, open air causeways which formed a large U before giving way to the ceiling to floor glass windows.  The main windows which stretched from ceiling to floor before warping into a large skylight offered a charming view of the harbor at night.

Black Diamond Student Party

A group of students from the Communication, Cognition, Film and Media Studies programs met up before the doors opened for a relaxing drink along the harbor waterfront. As the sun set we made our way into the Black Diamond.  It set the mood for the night.   Once inside we split into smaller groups as we explored the library (for most of us, it was our first time inside) before re-connecting to catch up on the week’s events and antics while listening to the various music performances.   The entire event was more than just music or drinks.  It was a beautifully executed experience and definitely ranks as one of my favorite events in Copenhagen so far.

Black Diamond Student Party

There’s something truly magical about a great concert series in a captivating venue.  The added effort the organizers put into building on the library’s native ambiance also made a huge difference. One surprising aspect of the evening was the number of international students in attendance.  Though University of Copenhagen has a relatively small international student population (in comparison to its size), the event was very foreign student heavy which offered a fun mixture of accents, cultures and personalities. Holding the event as a students-only event also ended up being a great thing.  It eliminated the potential social discomfort that often goes with attending a formal event and served as a fun way to bridge the gap between a more traditional event and student life’s informality. The event was an absolute delight and one I hope to participate in again next year. Have you enjoyed a concert or event in a particularly unique venue?  I’d love to hear about it in a comment.

**I didn’t take my camera with me to the event so the photos in this post were taken by Frida Zhang and are used/hosted with her permission.

Public Libraries in the Digital Age

Library fresco in Prague by Alex Berger

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If you are not overly tech savvy you probably think that Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Networks are a mostly negative thing…used solely to facilitate the illegal sharing of data, violating copyright, and depriving the rightful authors of their well-deserved due. While P2P networks do facilitate the illegal transfer of a lot of information, that’s not all P2P networks are used for (despite the perverted portrayal by the media ).  In fact, P2P networks are 100% legal and immensely useful. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) hate them because they take an a-symmetrical web and make it more symmetrical (users sending and receiving near equal amounts of data) but the technology is not only useful, it’s very sound.

The Problem

Public Libraries are an incredible resource.  They have quietly powered just about every major information revolution in the written age.  We have free public libraries to thank for the education received by some of our greatest thinkers. Fundamentally, they facilitate the free and easy dissemination of knowledge. The problem many libraries are facing in the modern environment is competition with the web and P2P networks.  Most of us would still prefer to read a 200+ page book over it’s digital alternative. With e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle even that may not last much longer. So how do libraries stay competitive and useful in the modern environment?

The Current Situation

For the sake of illustration I’ll use the Phoenix Public Library System (PPLS).   PPLS and other city libraries spend an average of $75,000 a year on custom subscriptions.  That $75,000 is in addition to the $1.5 million spent by/across Maricopa county.  On December 3, 2007 the Arizona Republic reported:

In Phoenix and its suburbs, they’re free passes to growing numbers of costly subscription-only Internet databases with genealogy research and auto repair instructions, foreign languages courses and antique appraisals. Maricopa County and Valley cities are spending more than $1.5 million a year to make this information free to cardholders.

As you can imagine, with that type of coinage involved they’re not just purchasing offbeat service subscriptions.  Instead they’ve put together a comprehensive, engaging list of offerings.  View it here.

In addition to adding access to these online research tools and services, they have also moved towards providing a comprehensive e-book and audio book selection…all available for download.  The website lists 1800+ titles in the movie section available for download, 1,500+ audio files, 18,500+ ebooks and 9200+ audio books. An impressive assortment and one that has the potential to cost the Library thousands of dollars in bandwidth costs.

The Solution

PPLS’s offering is impressive, with 60+ database subscriptions and with 30,000+ digital offerings but it’s still minuscule compared to the potential.  Why not turn our library system into a networked P2P network operating custom software which not only allows the distribution of the content they already have, but also the submission and potential addition of hundreds of thousands of new files by authors, documentary producers, and musicians? I know a number of musicians and authors that are eager to distribute their work freely who would jump at the opportunity to tie into the library network. They would be more than willing to submit their works on a royalty-free basis.

It would also allow libraries to share digital catalogs easily between each other.  To ensure availability they probably would still need to offer central download servers, but the load on those could be readily offset by tapping peers with the files first, before defaulting back to the hard servers.  There are hundreds of developers on sites like Source Forge working on open source projects for file sharing and P2P networks so the cost of development would be minimal.  I believe that given the benevolent nature of the project, you could attract a number of skilled coders and developers relatively easily and quickly.

Custom-sort options for submission/approval/maintenance could be built in fairly easily ensuring that illegal files were not dumped onto the server. This would allow the Library complete control over what was made available. It would also differentiate a Library-based system from your standard open P2P network while protecting copyrights. This would also mean that all content on the network was safe, unlike a conventional P2P network where rogue users sometimes submit viruses or mis-labeled material.

If you consider the success of the SETI home program, and people’s helpful default nature, combined with the knowledge that what they are sharing is legal, I believe many individuals would be more than happy to leave the P2P component running.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and impressions.  Please post them in comment form below.