Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Libraries in the Year 2001

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Libraries in the Year 2001

Article excerpt

When asked to talk about libraries in the year 2001, my first reaction was that ten years are not enough to make much of a difference. Then I thought about where my library was ten years ago. In 1981 I had just bought my third Texas Instruments 300-baud Silent 700 teleprinter terminal to accommodate demand for searching on a database called Lockheed. Our ratio of professionals to clericals was one to three. We were worried because our interlibrary loan activity had skyrocketed from thirty a month to sixty a month since we started searching on Lockheed. We were cataloging on OCLC and behind in our card filing. Ten years later we have more computers than staff. We search over thirty database vendor systems (including one called Dialog). Our ratio of professionals to clericals is two to one. Our document delivery desk orders 1,000 items a month from commercial suppliers. Finally, we are still cataloging on OCLC - although we are no longer behind in card filing since we now have an OPAC. Ten years is a long time. You may well ask, however, as Stanislaw Lee did, "Is it progress if a cannibal eats with a knife and fork?"




The arena of library services that I know best is library service to the professional and managerial business community. This community of existing and potential library patrons works in sales and marketing departments, research departments, law offices, company headquarters, consulting firms , and engineering and design departments, to name of a few.

If you work in an academic or public library you may wonder if you should read further. This is why you should: The professional and managerial business community is a large, influential, underserved market for library services. By way of illustration, academic libraries provide service to fourteen million students and faculty. At twenty-eight million people, excluding teachers and librarians, the market for library services to managers and professionals is twice that size.

The people who work in this sector are important to the library "industry" in many ways. They are most apt to support and use public libraries in their communities. Government officials solicit testimony from this sector on funding matters. Trustees of library boards are drawn from this sector. College administration are recruited from this sector.

Most important to this discussion of the future of library service, however, is the fact the libraries in the professional and managerial business community have direct competition in a way few libraries have. This sector in which patrons pay dearly and sometimes directly for library services. This last aspect makes these libraries the "canary in the coal mine" of our industry. If business and industrial libraries are not around in ten years, it does not bode well for all of library service because it means the professional and managerial community has decided it can do without libraries and librarians.

Existing library service to the business and professional community is highly uneven and is provided by a variety of suppliers. Some academic and public libraries have had success providing library service to the business community on either a free or free basis. In Boston, for example, MIT has an Industrial Liaison Program. The Boston Public Library has the Kirstein Business Branch in downtown Boston. Professional associations fund libraries, such as the Engineering Societies Library in New York. However, most library services to this community are provided by the businesses themselves, either through in-house staff and resources or via contract information brokers.




There are a number of documented reasons why managers and professionals do not take better advantage of library services. …

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