CD-ROM in the '80's: Multi-Media for the '90's
No library technology seems to have captured the interest and imagination of librarians quite the way CD-ROM has. Indeed, in spite of its central role in changing the way librarians conduct the business of librarianship, not even the microcomputer ever got so much concentrated attention.
Over the past five years, since the introduction of the first commercial product developed on a CD-ROM platform (The Library Corporation's BiblioFile cataloging system), there have been countless conference programs dedicated to that technology. I must have personally addressed librarians on the topic no less than 30 times in my capacity as founding editor of CD-ROM Librarian. And it's the truth that I received far fewer invitations to speak because I was the editor of Computers in Libraries.
CD-ROM on the Program
CD-ROM related sessions were far and away the sweepstakes winner as the single most scheduled topic at the 5th Computers in Libraries (CIL '90) conference in Arlington, VA this March. To start out, two sell-out preconference workshops grappled with the business of stringing up CD-ROM local area networks and developing bibliographic instruction programs for CD-ROM reference databases.
Later, during the conference itself, standing room only audiences attended sessions of CD-ROM programming which played out over two full days and focused on such issues as: 1) Controlling the Growth of CD-ROM Collections; 2) CD-ROM and Copyright; 3) Retrieval Software Issues; 4) Public Access CD-ROM Workstations/Their Design and Management; 5) Running Multiple Products on a Single Workstation; 6) PC-Based CD-ROM Access Via a VAX Computer; and 7) Silver Platter's Statistical Module. Those sessions were in addition to the several CD-ROM related presentations scheduled as part of other conference tracks on medical, school, and academic libraries during the full three day conference.
There is no denying the impact of CD-ROM on libraries. Interest in the technology is sufficient to support two publications specifically designed for the librarian, including CD-ROM Librarian (monthly) and Laserdisk Professional (bi-monthly). Even in its heyday of importance, the impact of microforms publishing in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s never supported more than a single bimonthly publication.
Besides these two journals, there are others published for the trade as well as for professionals in Canada and the UK. There are also two separate annual directories that provide information about CD-ROM materials in print, and a third was recently announced. Interest in CD-ROM products has been so staggering that the technology rates an annual round-up in Library Journal.
Clearly, in spite of the cautionary reluctance of some librarians, CD-ROM has become a format of favor to be employed in the development of new services for library patrons. Information professionals are now choosing the work of managing CD-ROM collections as a professional specialization, even while library management is placing more and more emphasis on integrating this newest information storage and delivery format into the daily routine of library operations.
CD-ROM is no longer scrutinized as a fleeting technology. Instead, the products and services based in CD-ROM are now demanding that librarians pay attention to an increasing number of associated management issues it raises. Many of those issues were addressed at the CIL conference and at other sessions already announced for 1990.
Principally, the issues fall into three categories: budgeting, evaluation, and licensing and leasing. First, and in spite of rapidly falling prices, librarians report that they spend between $3,500-$20,000 annually on the provisions of CD-ROM systems. The money has got to come from somewhere and since budgets generally don't increase, new techniques of "robbing Peter to pay Paul" are becoming more creative. …