Letters to the Editor


LIBRARY OF THE FUTURE CHALLENGED

To the Editor:

I am appalled by the title and implicit content of the January/February 2003 "Industry Insights"-that is, "Library of the Future" without the qualifier "Corporate" or "Special." As it stands, this column can serve as ammunition by shortsighted academic administrators and public officials to further shrink already-inadequate materials and space budgets for libraries.

The misleading use of two academic group or consortial arrangements as evidence for the value of "virtualization" doesn't help. OhioLINK complements and improves the physical academic libraries in Ohio; it does not (and is not intended to) replace or "virtualize" them. The same can be said for the California Digital Library.

Of course, any academic or public library serving only 10 percent of its potential users would be considered a grotesque failure, and any public library having a "market penetration" of 27 percent isn't doing very well either. On the other hand, no public library can spend $869 or $689 per user.

I won't get into the validity of the evidence provided as applicable to all corporate libraries, although I'm inclined to ask "51 percent of how many?" and other questions about the depth and breadth of Outsells research. I'm fairly sure that quite a few special libraries would be ill-advised to dump their physical collections; in some cases, that might border on malpractice. But I'm not in that field and will leave it to others to deal with.

Sincerely,

Walt Crawford, RLG

(but my own opinions only)

LIBRARY OF THE FUTURE DEFENDED

To Wait Crawford:

We clearly stated, "...libraries that have 'gone virtual' have moderately higher budgets than those that haven't...," so it's unclear why an administrator would cite our article as a reason, let alone the sole reason, to reduce funding.

More to the point, we do not recognize that the digital revolution is somehow bypassing non-corporate libraries. Like their corporate brethren, academic and public libraries must focus squarely on providing content and related services to users in a format they value, and not necessarily warehousing masses of printed matter "because that's what libraries do." Do we advocate eliminating print libraries altogether? Rarely. Do we advocate shifting resources to formats that mean the most to users, regardless of a library's type? Absolutely.

We stand by our use of OhioLINK and the California Digital Library as examples of how electronic linkages between libraries increase the use of content and reduce the need for redundant satellite libraries. …

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