Librarians like to point out that it makes no economic sense to go back and digitize books that are working perfectly well. In their book, Future Libraries: Dreams, Madness and Reality, Walt Crawford and Michael Gorman set the parameters for digital holdings: "Any print-on-paper product that is used primarily on a paragraph-by-paragraph (or smaller unit) basis and in which the currency of information is vital to its effectiveness is better electronically published." Such documents include ready reference works, such as dictionaries, directories, indexes, almanacs, and statistical compilations.
They go on to state that electronic publishing and dissemination will grow, probably at a great rate, and will displace print in the cases in which print is inferior -- primarily compilations of data and short packages of information.
WILL LIBRARIES DISAPPEAR?
Keith Michael Fiels, director for the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners, said the Internet, CD-ROM and information technology will not be the death of the public library and the public book collection. "Libraries are not going to go anywhere," he remarked. He does view the new Technological Age as forcing change upon library services everywhere, for the better.
While 373 libraries in Massachusetts are circulating 50 million books per year, according to Fiels, the reference desk in the future library will be stocked with digital technologies. In fact, some information, such as government publications, may only be available electronically in the future.
The majority of public libraries are endeavoring to expand and enhance their existing services with electronic sources that complement print-on-paper resources. Because the Net's information changes and grows so quickly, digital libraries seem to concentrate on current awareness and information-on-demand services.
"The further back in time you go, the less likely you are to find digitized coverage," remarked Jennifer Krueger, head of Information Services at New York City's Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL). SIBL is one of the most technologically advanced libraries in the United States and is widely viewed as a prototype for the Digital Age.
"One of the things we've watched as we've seen the Internet grow and as more people use it, is that the organization or the individuals who put up information on the Internet have different ideas about their role as archivists," said Krueger. "Some information on the Internet is wonderful for the most recent information. If you're looking for information put out a year ago, they may have taken it off their Web site. So just because things appear on the Web in electronic format doesn't mean that if there is an equivalent paper version, that it is not just as important."
Fiels agrees. "The Internet and digital collections are a good supplement to, not a replacement for, the traditional library," he said. Even at SIBL -- replete with sophisticated technology-- books will remain a force. SIBL has 1.25 million books in closed stacks and 60,000 volumes on open research shelves. Kristen McDonough, director of SIBL, said, "The New York Public Library as an institution is very committed to the book and puts a tremendous emphasis on its preservation."
Peter Young, executive director of NCLIS, pointed out that "the use of print material increases with Internet access." They are complementary technologies. The World Wide Web can provide a service to users remotely, yet at the same time draw them into the library to utilize local resources.
For example, Krueger reported that SIBL puts up a lot of user guides on its home page