Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Are We Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water?

Magazine article Computers in Libraries

Are We Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water?

Article excerpt

I would like to say that, in this month's feature, Stephen Abram is playing devil's advocate. But, alas, no irony is involved-we seem inevitably headed online, wirelessly yet. The CD/DVD librarian, out of a job or headed for retraining, might regard him more as a devil than a devil's advocate.

Are there any good words left to say for portable media? The original portable medium was printed books. Most librarians hold that books will persist usefully forever, in collaboration with electronic sources. Some have gleefully or regretfully predicted the impending death of the book. But have we skipped a step here? Surely the book should have died before CD-ROM dies, and the news of DVD being stillborn is disappointing. Optical media are more similar to books than to online, although their content can be networked and delivered online. CD-ROM is, at heart, a singleuser medium. Like a book, it is a tangible, well-defined resource to be physically selected, acquired, collected, loaned, and preserved. What happened to media synergy? Don't the various media each have their particular capabilities and advantages, with much information power gained when combining them?

While Megabit wireless access is surely in the cards, how many of us have as much online bandwidth as we would like-or need-right now, and how many don't have any at all? The CD-ROM can deliver decent multimedia right now; and the DVD, with its maximum capacity of 17 GB, is currently the only credible true multimedia format. Online, hobbled by its delivery infrastructure, is simply not ready for prime time in that respect. …

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