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Old 07-20-2007, 04:07 PM   #3
Panurge has a complete set of Star Wars action figures.Panurge has a complete set of Star Wars action figures.Panurge has a complete set of Star Wars action figures.Panurge has a complete set of Star Wars action figures.
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Posts: 34
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Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Texas
Device: Sony Reader
Library Science

No, I'm afraid that I don't actually have a library science degree per se--a Ph. D. in English and lots of experience with books as well as electronics--but I do know quite a bit about libraries (I'd better, since I've been running this one for nine years) and how they operate.
The e-book phenomenon was on my mind when I first took the job, and I anticipated then that libraries would undergo some rapid shifts in the next decade. It has happened even faster than I had expected. I manage according to two principles:
1) the original, whatever that might be, is irreplaceable from a scholarly point of view (the paper or binding of a print book may contain valuable information beyond its intellectual contents), but for most people the content and perhaps its appearance on the page are what matter. If those can be delivered in a more economical and convenient fashion, then libraries should be pursuing the alternatives.
2) libraries loan materials rather than sell them, but those materials are used by a fairly well-defined community, who determine what a library will have in its collection.
A few years ago, I read about a medievalist who proposed examining the DNA in medieval parchment manuscripts (i.e., sheepskins) as a way of determining their provenance. How will we preserve such information electronically and digitally in the future? Or will the community that makes use of digital books need such information? These are some things that we'll have to think about after the first flush of excitement (the last quarter-century) about the amazing possibilities of e-books and their cousins dies down and digitized information becomes the norm.
I first read about e-ink during the first week that I began running a library. I knew then that there was no going back. The late Marshall McLuhan, however, used to point out that every new medium retrieves and carries forward elements from the older media it replaces.
I own a Sony Reader, but I bought the first approximation of a laptop back around 1981 or 82--a small dedicated word processor 8.5" x 11" x 1" called the Sony Type Writer or something of the sort--that had a single line of LED display but a full-size keyboard. I owned as succession of NEC and Tandy Model 100-style notebooks. I acquired an Atari handheld called the Pocket PC back in 1990 and later a Psion. I am beginning to read material on my Sony Reader and even on my desktop display in preference to holding up or propping up a hefty print volume. That's an ominous sign, in a way. I can foresee a time when later iterations of e-ink will displace most paper and traditional print, even though I do expect print to last for a long time to come.
Anyhow, that's the perspective of a professor-scholar-author with the additional responsibility of keeping up with 300,000 volumes (in addition to a 4,500 volume library of his own at home).
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