The State of the Library Debated

December 1, 2011

Joho the Blog recently reported on a meeting regarding the history and future of libraries in the November 22 post “Physical Libraries in a Digital World” by using the Harvard Library as a case study.

According to the article, As more and more books accumulated at Harvard there became a need to find other places to store them. One, initially unpopular, option became to store unused books in an off site repository known as the Harvard Depository (HD).

The article states:
“Now more than 40% of the physical collections are at HD. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences started out hostile to the idea, but soon became converted. The notion faculty had of browsing the shelves was based on a fantasy: Harvard had never had all the books on a subject on a shelf in a single facility… Shelf browsing is a waste of time if you’re trying to do thorough research. It’s a little better in the smaller libraries, but the future is not in shelf browsing. Open and closed stacks isn’t the question any more. It’s just not possible any longer to do shelf browsing, unless we develop tools for browsing in a non-physical fashion.”
The task force predicted that within 40 years over 70% of physical books would be off site. Several of the people in the meeting suggested moving the majority of the physical books to be accessed digitally as a way to save money.

As unfortunate as it may be to lose the books that have been salvaged for up to 500 years, we also need to come to terms with the fact that libraries are no longer being used the way they have in the past so why take the extra time and money to salvage them?

Jasmine Ashton December 1, 2011

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2 Responses to “The State of the Library Debated”

  1. sperky undernet on December 1st, 2011 2:41 am

    So why don’t university libraries explore rural public libraries as possible depository and storage vacilities for their unwanted hardcopy holdings? This should be on the condition of the added value of making same or specified or negotiated holdings available to local populations and open up or enrich new distribution services. The writings of Jacques Ellul or Martin Heidegger or others besides top ten authors on that bookmobile might have unexpected benefits down the line.

    Oh and by the way, according to Public Libraries Survey Fiscal Year 2009 October 2011
    ” Public libraries in rural areas have 5.9 PCs per 5,000 people in their legal service area, a number that is 52.7 percent above the national average.” (doc p.12). (Thanks @traintalk for the reference)

    Putting unwanted hardcopy treasures to use should be one of many international long-range occupy goals.

  2. With or without honors « Reel Librarians on December 26th, 2011 11:20 am

    […] The State of the Library Debated ( […]

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