On Sat, 25 Mar 2006, Marcos Sueiro wrote:
> I must admit I am a bit surprised, if not shocked, to see a discussion on
> the value of libraries in the ARSCList, of all places.
From my perspective it is totally logical that such a discussion should be
on the ARSCList. I believe that audio recordings are amongst the first
information to be stored electronically and the first to require hardware
to "decode" the information.
I also believe that those in audio preservation are perhaps the most
informed when it comes to the electronic distribution of information and
certainly have the most experience with the preservation of electronic
information in the world of libraries.
Come on people! We
> are talking about the repositories of human knowledge!! We're talkin'
> Alexandria, Cordoba, Trinity College, so on and so forth! Possibly one of
> the greatest ideas of humankind, and an amazing gift to all of us. (I am
> convinced that if someone came up with this idea today in the Western
> World, it would never happen.
A most interesting point. I wonder if it would ever happen and I wonder
how much longer is it going to be allowed to keep happening. I like to
make the comparision to health care. Health is probably the most
fundamental need...yet, consider the sort of free health care that is
> companies: "Wait a minute. You are going to let people borrow this stuff
> for free? Are you out of your mind????") Libraries are wonderfully
> anachronistic, but also timeless. And while I applaud the idea of
> digitising materials and making them available on the web, it cannot be a
> library's primary function.
If you look in the Oxford English Dictionary...Library...a place set apart
to contain books.
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.
Such a position I find between naive and
> arrogant, assuming that computers, or something that can read computer
> files, will be around forever. Maybe they will be, maybe they won't. One
> thing we know for sure: Libraries have been around for hundreds and
> hundreds of years, they seem to work, and have changed the course of
> knowledge's history several times, by revealing previous knowledge that was
> not popular at the time, but that some inquisitive soul picked up (the
> Renaissance, anyone?).
For me, libraries don't work. Perhaps I am in the minority of those who
might have been regular library users at one time. And if history is any
guide, I believe that it is quite likely that many of our digital files
and/or the software and/or hardware needed to read them will be
unavailable. Just because something has been around for a long time
doesn't mean it will be there in the future. That can be as true for a
book, a phonograph record, an icebox (which required a delivery from the
iceman) or a library. We still have an icebox, but it is now a
refrigerator. I believe economics has
already been and will increasingly so determine the future of libraries.
It isn't just the economics of the library and its support, but the
economics of publishing. I think about my own record label. We are
planning a series of issues that will not ever be pressed but produced
only for download. It will be for those items that aren't likely to sell
enough to cover the pressing and printing costs. How will a library
provide access to that file?
> I live in Queens, NY, whose public library system claims to have the
> highest usage in the world, and I love to see people of all creeds,
> colours, and ages populate its library branches. Engaging in one of the
> most wonderful of human endeavours: the sharing of knowledge. For free.
It is indeed one of the most wonderful aspects of humanity, but I believe
it is the sharing of information that is central and timeless, not the
modality for that sharing. I also love seeing people sitting in our local
> There is only so much digitising one can do. Only the "useful" stuff will
> be put up on the web. What you end up is with a generic MacLibrary of
> knowledge, Google or not.
And look at what gets cataloged in libraries...while I don't know the
statistics, the bulk of cataloging in our library is copy cataloging of
items already listed in OCLC. Original cataloging is expensive. So, in a
sense, we already have mostly the "useful" stuff getting the attention.
Libraries often outsource selection through the use of approval plans.
Again, the "useful" stuff gets the attention. Often times in public
library systems, not only is the selection centralized, but they also rely
on library suppliers. I have seen donated music tossed because it was
acidic paper. Much of this material was available in perhaps one other
OCLC library...or at least listed in an OCLC library. One could say "it
costs too much to photocopy," or, "what student or faculty member would be
interested," yet, that is another example of only the "useful" stuff being
Even in a library you can't get things like some industry statistics, etc.
For me, access to information doesn't necessarily mean a "library."