One thought on “E-Library Economics

  1. There comes a point of diminishing returns when it comes to saving money. If your main focus is to be cheap- you end up being cheapened.

    I think there is an aspect of ‘place’ that is important to what a library is to a community that would be lost if there is an over-emphasis on the shift to digital collections. The -strength- of digital media are that they can be ‘anywhere’, the weakness of them is that they can be ‘nowhere’. If libraries are to maintain a strong sense of being a ‘somewhere’ that matters in our communities they’ll need to be more than just access to an ‘anywhere’ resource. Frankly internet cafes and the like would be able to “better” serve that function if the goal is to be economical.

    And when it comes right down to it access to digital material simply isn’t reliable enough to place all our eggs in that basket. Think about all the times university web services like Blackboard have trouble- then imagine that ALL our resources were reliant on the smooth working of electronic systems. The one unquestionable benefit of a book is that if you have it in your hands, you can access its contents. True, it can only be in one place at one time- but it is always where it is. Digital media can be anywhere, but only if all the systems and devices required to access it are working properly. If any one thing fails, ultimately digital materials are nowhere.

    Digital collections are a valuable resource that have many benefits which traditional collections don’t. That doesn’t make them an unqualified improvement, nor does it mean that traditional collections are replaceable. I think we’d all be better served by trying to make them compliment each other rather than making them seem like competitors.

    As for moving books into denser storage, it is fine so long as there are people who can go fetch them for the public- but would the cost of those employees be factored into the cost saving effort? Or would those materials simply sit in storage because someone along the line decides it costs too much to provide access to them?

    (It should be noted that I am at least a year away from even applying to an MLIS program, so it is possible I have no idea what I’m talking about. These are the impressions of a concerned layperson.)

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