This editorial was published today in the Nanaimo (British Columbia) Daily News and is also posted on Canada.com. The headline is wonderful to read but the actual article needs some work.
The editorial focuses on the public libraries of the Vancouver Island Regional Library.
Libraries are becoming a less important source of reference material. The Internet provides that and authors and scholars repeatedly update the information in the journals, articles and books they have written.
An author who published a book about salmon farming in 2008, for example, may be able to update that information electronically to the book without having to reissue it.
Libraries are not obsolete but the manner in which they deliver their services is becoming so. With so much information available free, online, their role as a source of information for the public is diminishing.
Decisions made now will drastically impact the future role of libraries in our communities. It’s likely that a generation or two from now people will be puzzled by our sentimental attachment to printed books, because information will be delivered in a completely different, and more dynamic, manner.
Perhaps a virtual library system would be able to offer service seven days a week and presumably 24 hours a day. As people grow more comfortable with digital books, the need for physical institutions will diminish.
- Was any research done before this article was written? Stats show that people are still visiting public libraries and in large numbers to do a variety of things including research. Most disturbing is that the editorial makes no mention that not everyone has access to the information technology needed to access the online materials. If you’re going to say that the need for the physical library building is “diminishing” a sentence or two acknowleding the fact that the library is an access point for many users is critical.
These comments are not about the need or the lack of one for a library building but rather on a few specific statements in the article.
- “Libraries are becoming a less important source of reference material.”
Libraries in general or at a physical location? It’s important to be clear. Also, libraries are still a source for reference materials both in print and online.
- “The Internet provides that and authors and scholars repeatedly update the information in the journals, articles and books they have written.”
Repeatedly update? Preprints are one thing but they lead to a final article published online and/or in print. Also, the editorial is about public libraries on Vancouver Island. The info needs of a public library user and those of an academic library user can be very different.
- “With so much information available free, online…”
Free for the user or free for the user and the library? Yes, there is a lot of great info on the “open web” but as we’ve seen for many years users don’t realize that the databases and other electronic tools they are able to access cost money. On the other hand, they might not know that these tools are available to them in the first place. We’ve would be very interested to know how many people purchase archived material from the NY Times and other publications when they could get it for free* from their local library.