On Tue, Jul 20, 2004 at 08:31:46AM -0500, Eric Lease Morgan wrote:
> On Jul 20, 2004, at 8:18 AM, Carol Bean wrote:
> >I've been hearing this for a long time, and as long as you're leaning
> >against the "cutting edge" deployment, it's easy to get caught up in
> >it (been there, done that): digital is coming, we must adjust!  While
> >I agree with the service and adjustment part, coming from the public
> >library side, and especially the public side that sees a LOT of
> >computer illiterate people (we're working on that...), until
> >electronic gadgets become as easy to use as point and shoot cameras,
> >our collections are not going to change that much.  Access will never
> >be irrelevant because none of it is ever provided for free.  And even
> >when the library provides the access, there is the training required
> >to enable access.  It's only the mix that will change.
> This, taken to a its logical conclusion, seems to say that libraries
> are about providing access to information to the people who can't get
> access any other way. This group of people will be getting smaller and
> smaller. I imagine a time when the entire content of a library can be
> stored on a thing the size and shape of a sugar cube. To read the
> content of the cube you will drop it into a device, and the device will
> facilitate access. As the amount of content on cube increases the less
> important access will be come and the more important services against
> the content will become. This, in my opinion, is an opportunity for
> librarianship. It is where librarianship can grow and fill a niche.

I think the logical conclusion that *one essential aspect* of
libraries is providing or mediating access to those who can't get it
in other ways.  But I don't think you meant that libraries are *only*
about access.

Access in brick & mortar libraries is not simply a matter of subscribing
or buying and then piling onto shelves--it takes catalogers to turn a
warehouse into a library.  Organization (e.g. cataloging) plays a
crucial role in supporting access to as well as management of the
collection.  It will doubtless be the same for your sugar cube.
Indeed, how much more important will organization be when information
density increases so far as to realize your imagined future.  It
probably won't be AACR2 cataloging that pulls the wanted needles from
the haystacks (or extracts the wanted grains from the sugar cube), but
I don't think an Amazonian (Amazonic?) interface will be adequate
either.  How will we choreograph the dance of information angels on the
face of that sugar cube?

Thank you, Eric, for prompting us to think two or three steps ahead
about these things.  Please keep doing this!

Chuck Bearden
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