France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

November 20, 2008

Brussels, Schmussels; or, is the new 2 million Euro Europeana Digital Library a Lemon?

Filed under: Uncategorized — franceblogger @ 3:13 pm
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Really, I have nothing against Brussels. Sure, foreign architecture classes have been known to take field trips there to see a classic example of what happens when a citiy has no architectural planning, but I kinda like the fact that it’s all over the map. I like the contradiction that even though it’s technically speaking in the Dutch part of the country, most people speak French. I like that it’s kind of a bordel, pre-gentrification Brooklyn to Paris’s post-Disney New York. I like and even love some of the dance companies — much more original and, well, dancey than their French counterparts.

But if you live in Europe, Brussels, the word, has left the city behind and has come to mean bureaucratic heaviness and impersonal regulation from heartless bureaucrats who are out of touch with the reality and exigencies of regular people in member states — particularly small business-people, farmers and fishermen.

In theory, the idea of a European Union — or, if you prefer, a United States of Europe — is great. But even when Brussels — read, EU management — does something that in theory should be wonderful, it seems their heads are so overloaded with technospeak that they forget practicality.

Take Europeana, the new European digital library which launched today with much bally-hoo, including a speech from the president of the European commission. Theoretically it’ll have material from libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions from all 27 member states.

I thought I’d check it out.

I just finally was able to access it — earlier in the afternoon, at about the same time the EU commission prez was announcing the launch — I think he said something about boasting top-tiere technology — the site was ‘unavailable.’ Now it’s available. And, according to itself, it’s ‘simple’ to use. “Just ask yourself who, what, where or when you are interested in and type these words into Europeana’s search box.”

Before we get to asking myself, I have a preliminary question:

Where’s the search box?

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