Information technology is making a far-reaching, revolutionary impact on higher education. Vice President Al Gore has drawn public attention to the Internet—the Information Superhighway, as it has popularly come to be known—and speculation about its social and political significance is appearing in such varied publications as The New Republic and The National Review. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education interview, Douglas Van Houwelin, Vice-Provost for Information Technology at the University of Michigan, states the implications clearly and emphatically: ‘‘Universities are about sharing knowledge and information, and what we’re seeing now [with personal computing and networking] is about the same thing. The convergence here is going to be something we can’t imagine’’ (Jacobson 1994: A26). The impact of information technology on libraries and library services is likewise difficult to imagine, a fact that makes planning and decision making particularly challenging for managers and administrators.
One does, however, feel confident in predicting a period of rapid expansion for ‘‘distance education’’ (distance education allows education to take place at remote sites by using such technologies as television and telecommunications) and the library services needed to support it. Modern telecommunicating technology has diluted the concentration of just about everything, including political and economic power, and it also tends to bring about the decentralization of