Below is my forthcoming article in Gardner-Webb University’s Friends of the Library newsletter.
Libraries in the Digital Age
I have been a student in some sort of formalized education for 21 years. As such, I have spent a lot of time in libraries of all shapes and sizes. Books are cathartic for me, but with recent technological advances, libraries have begun to change. Card Catalog systems were wonderful, but as Bob Dylan said, “the times they are a-changin.” Library catalogs have been moved to the Internet, journal articles are available in full-text with the click of a mouse, and entire books are being digitized. In my own research, I have been able to find full text of English, German, and French articles from the comfort of my home office and the local coffee shop.
What is more, the advent of Amazon’s Kindle, the iPad, Google Books,Wikipedia.org, and Gutenberg.org have led many to say that books – that is, real books – are on their way out and that everyone will keep their entire libraries on a single electronic device. We bibliophiles, however, know better. Books have maintained their presence in societies for over 600 years. Nevertheless, we are on the threshold of a revolution just as jarring as the printing press n the 1400s and, as then, many of the things that we hold as sacred and conventional will be tested by these new avenues of information retrieval and dispersion.
Information is ubiquitous. The ubiquity of information, though, also means that misinformation becomes more widespread. As lovers of books and information, we should desire that well-researched, peer-reviewed, and accurate information be available for as many people as possible. Making library resources readily available online and maintaining our presence in the digital world moves us one step closer to seeing this dream become a reality.
Special thanks to Sam Harrelson for input.