Reviews of Recent Writings - the Myth of the Electronic Library: Librarianship and Social Change in America

Article excerpt

*** = WELL DONE

Birdsall, William F. The Myth of the Electronic Library: Librarianship and Social Change in America. (Contributions in Librarianship and Information Science, Number 82). Greenwood Press: Westport, CT. 1994. 224pp.

The author has created a scholarly opus that will appeal primarily to librarians uncomfortable with the electronic library and seeking a basis for not following their leaders who tell them the library as a place will disappear. Whether or not Birdsall provides an answer or relieves anxiety depends largely upon what the reader brings to the book.

Librarians who are frightened that their building-s and positions might be replaced by computer networks and artificial intelligence will be reassured by the book. They will find ammunition to use against others who are fully convinced that the electronic library is inevitable. Birdsall reminds us that nothing is inevitable. There are alternatives if we choose to pursue them. He has purposefully thrown down the gauntlet and engendered a debate with others who say that the electronic library will prevail. It is those of us in the middle (wandering in a world of ambiguity and change) who will enjoy the book most.

Regardless of who buys the book, reads it and reacts to it, it is a major contribution to our understanding of the library as an institution. Birdsall examines the concepts of individualism, community, liberalism and conservatism as they relate to the library in our society. It is not a book to be tasted or swallowed; it must be digested. …