Interesting. I wonder though what percentage of Ipod capacity will
be consumed by tunes rather than library-like material by the end of
the first semester.
Actually, I would like to think this sort of thing is more than
symbolic and promotional. When the truly useful and useable mega
capacity micro scale portable reference library becomes available it
will beg many questions, not only in terms of library services but
software / systems / network level.
Where are we now? Consider scale. The largest capacity Ipod stores
40 GB. Compare this to an academic library with 1,000,000 volumes.
In terms of text alone, we are likely talking at least 1000 GB (one
terabyte). The amount needed to store just the images in printed
works is harder to estimate. Considering the periodical literature,
science and technology materials, art materials, storage capacity
could easily balloon to 5 or even 10 terabytes. Taking the lower of
these two figures, the mighty 40 GB Ipod could be expected to hold
eight one-hundredths of one percent. And this before considering
audio, slide collections and the massive demands from even small
amounts of video.
The technological road from 40 GB to 5,000 GB is not at all clear.
That we will get there one way or another, one when or another, seems
likely. But the time frame is highly uncertain. And in any case,
the evolution of technology is no reliable predicter of whether
owners of the intellectual property rights to the material we are
discussing are likely to allow it to be made available economically,
or will be able to convert to digital form.
The implications of this back of the napkin reasoning:
1. Portable digital data collections will be, for the foreseeable
future, at a scale far too small to be considered a rival for general
academic or public libraries. Links to greater stores of information
will be needed, and probably integrated with such portable
collections as a wireless telecommunications link.
2. Such collections will likely be highly specialized to particular
areas of study, as pulling together significant and contemporary
resources will be easier and more economical if the focus is
3. General collections will be "spotty", their composition dictated
by what is available in digital form and which publishers are willing
to offer an affordable package rather than be a careful selection of
the best material in many different fields.
4. General academic library collections are far from being replaced
5. On the other hand, some of their users will find portable digital
collections more convenient than the library for some purposes, e.g.
quick reference for specialized data, access to standard works in a
field, reprints of the sort typically distributed as paper or
electronic course reserves.
6. Just as electronic full text has taken over a piece of library
services, so portable digital collections will do the same in widely
varying degree by area of study.
7. As with online resources, management, coordination and
enhancement of interconnection among an even broader scope of
information resources will fall to academic libraries. To the extent
that libraries develop / acquire / maintain / explain mechanisms that
integrate these increasingly distributed and dynamic stores of
information, they will remain relevant to their organizations.
[Apologies for long-windedness...]
Maine State Library
On 20 Jul 2004 at 6:46, Eric Lease Morgan wrote:
> (This message may be off topic, but I'll try posting it here anyway.)
> I learned this morning that Duke University will be giving away
> bunches o' iPods to incoming freshman, and they will be come
> pre-filled with content for the students' schoolwork:
> Extend this further. Imagine in the future an entire library on an
> thing the size of an iPod. I'm not talking about just indexes and
> catalogs. Rather, I'm talking digitized, full text content. All of the
> encyclopedia. All of the books in the stacks. All of the journals
> since forever. All of the videos and music. All of the things from
> Special Collections and archives. Everything. The entire collection.
> What would a library be in such a scenario? I don't think it would be
> very much about collections because everybody would be carrying the
> entire collection around in their pocket. Instead, I think library
> would be more about service -- ways to use and interpret the
> information/knowledge in the collection.
> My point is two-fold. First, collections without services is like the
> sound of one hand clapping. Both are required in order for libraries
> to exist. Second, in a digital environment, libraries had better wake
> up, smell the coffee, and work on ways to provide more services
> digitally. As access becomes increasingly irrelevant, everybody will
> have access, other services will have to become more important, such
> as interpretation and manipulation.
> Eric "Early Morning Musing" Morgan
Library Systems Coordinator
Maine State Library
Bangor, ME 04402
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