Preparing for the Long-Term Digital Future of Libraries

By Breeding, Marshall | Computers in Libraries, January/February 2011 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Preparing for the Long-Term Digital Future of Libraries


Breeding, Marshall, Computers in Libraries


IT'S NOT TOO SOON TO BEGIN PLANNING FOR THE BEST TECHNOLOGIES THAT LIBRARIES WILL NEED TO THRIVE AS THE FUTURE UNFOLDS AROUND US.

Let's turn the calendar forward a decade or so and consider that libraries might face relative changes that might take place in the reading and entertainment materials that make up their collections. We can project at least some aspects of this world based on trends well underway today. Although many things could happen to impact the kinds of change and the timetables, it's important to begin thinking now about long-term library futures.

The Shift to Digital Formats

The obvious changes to anticipate involve major shifts toward digital formats, distributed through license arrangements, rather than physical materials available for purchase. Different types of materials created by different publishing niches will each travel toward this destination on their own timeline, but it seems clear, at least by what's happening today, that scholarly journals, newspapers and other periodicals, books, music, and movies are all headed in this common direction.

Serials and periodicals. These kinds of materials were the earliest to get on the track toward all-digital distribution. Even today, most academic libraries have largely experienced the transition of their scholarly journals from print to electronic versions. Many of the university libraries that I'm familiar with have replaced the expansive ranges of bound serials and periodicals with subscription ejournal products. Extensive, often comprehensive, backfiles provide convenient access to this material, though libraries continue to struggle with the rising costs of ejournal content, despite its transformation to fully digital publishing and distribution methods once believed to have the opportunity to drastically reduce expense.

In the scholarly publishing arena, we can anticipate a greater variety of business arrangements, such as open access publishing, where authors pay publishing costs to support perpetual free access to the materials. We might anticipate a vigorous competition between commercial publishers and universities that selfpublish their scholarly output. The scholarly publishing sector has many different dynamics in motion, making it difficult to predict its shape in the relatively long-term future.

Music and other audio materials. The music industry has gone through a tumultuous history since it encountered the digital fray. Today, rampant peer-to-peer sharing outside the bounds of official commerce and copyright restrictions has largely been beaten down, now replaced by legal streaming services. In a decade or so, CDs and other physical media will have largely gone extinct, or at least relegated to the niche of aficionados or collectors. By that time, even lesser-known artists will depend on publishing through internet streaming services rather than CDs or other formats. It seems fairly safe to anticipate an all-digital future for commercial music publishing.

Movies, documentaries, and other video content. These holdings will follow much the same trajectory as music. Streaming video services, which are gaining steam today, will dominate entirely in the years and decades to come. Blu-ray, the latest of the physical media formats for video, may never achieve critical mass before streaming comes to dominate.

Manuscripts and photographs. Manuscripts, photographs, and other historical materials will likewise enjoy benefits through comprehensive digitization in the coming decades. While advanced researchers may continue to appreciate access to the original objects, the vast majority of scholars will find that digital technologies unlock these treasures more than was ever possible in times when constrained by physical access. During my recent visit to Leipzig, for example, I learned how the famous Codex Sinaiticus was published digitally in the last year through a collaboration of The British Library, Leipzig University Library, the National Library of Russia, and the Monastery of St.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Preparing for the Long-Term Digital Future of Libraries
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?