The Future of Libraries, With or Without Books: CNN Report

CNN published a story about “the Future of Libraries, With or Without Books.” Those in the library or information profession continue to hear all of these claims about how libraries will eventually be mostly without books.

From my perspective, it is hard to say if libraries will ever get rid of the printed book. Unless all books within a collection will be digitized and made freely available electronically to their patrons worldwide and with few limits, which is partly one of Google’s goal (although for a cut of profit), I believe libraries will retain much of their collection.

Consider the amount of unique items within one library that are available no where else. Now multiply that by the number of libraries across the nation and the world.  Within the shared catalog of the Orbis Cascade Alliance, currently a consortium of 36 academic libraries throughout Oregon and Washington with a massive collection of nearly 28 million items, a large percentage (perhaps 30-40%?) are items that are unique to that one institution.

I think that academic institutions are more apt to move to primarily digital-only environments.  We’ve seen the massive shift from print journals to e-journals, and were are in the midst of a push (mainly by publishers) for e-books. E-books are frequently another method of squeezing more money from institutions by providing ongoing access and technical assistance for these purchased collections, opposed to a one-time cost of buying a book.  This is a whole other can of worms…

More to come on this topic in future posts.


About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on September 4, 2009, in Libraries and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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