Karl Miller wrote:
> So what is the library's primary function? They don't have the expertise
> or the salary base to provide first class digitisation. They can't mount
> their holdings for downloads unless they have copyright or if it is public
> domain. If a library is about books, then you
> probably need a building. If it is about information, you probably don't
> need such a big building.
This seems straightforward, even simplistic, but I suggest that it is not.
What is the information contained in a book? As I tried to point out
with my quote from GBS, a book is more than the text it contains. It is
typography, illustrations, binding and more. The Book of Kells is a
volume of information but it is more a work of art independent of its
Sound preservation provides a more extreme case; much of the discussion
on this list is of the form: what information is to be preserved about
this instance/recording? That, too, is on two levels: the information
inherent in the recorded sound and that about the recording. It is not
immediately obvious that the volume (say on CD) required to store the
information on an LP is less than the volume of the LP itself. A similar
case in books would be one of those microscopically engraved volumes
whose content and full description might well be larger than the pinhead
on which it is written.
The library as a lending institution is about information, not about
books. The historic medium of lending was the book, but that has been
changing over recent decades. Here is the first place where copyright
becomes a key issue in both books and recordings. The library is also a
repository; in that sense it is only about books, sound recordings and
other physical media. The library is also a research institution and as
such is almost exclusively about information. Even for a work of art,
such as a book, the researcher is seeking its properties, not its
esthetics per se. In audio, the corresponding properties may be
recording and publication data.
None of the above will be news to the subscribers here, but it may
clarify what seem to be differences of opinion. In my judgement, they
are at most differences of emphasis which can confuse because simple
terms such as "library" are used in different senses.
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