Memory Institutions


Kim H. Veltman

New Roles for Libraries in the Digital Age

Unpublished, Toronto, 1996.
An abstract was printed as: "The Evolution of Libraries in the Digital Age,” Access, Toronto, vol. 3, no. 3, Spring 1997, pp. 9-11.

1. Introduction
2. Ball Park Figures
3. Libraries
4. Meta-Data
5. Museums
6. Education and Training
7. Public-Private
8. National-Local-International
9. Dangers
10. Possibilities
11. Conclusions

1. Introduction

A revolution is underway. It is inevitably linked with computers, with Internet, Intranet and now Extranet. Much of this is fueled by hype to the extent that one might need to revise the saying from Scripture: many are claimed, but few are chosen (to work). There are many extremes. Some see these developments as a new panacea, acting as technophiles driven to techno-lust. Some have gained fame by decrying the so-called Silicon snake oil, while others raise questions whether we can ever afford the process.

With respect to libraries some predict that digitizing collections will make them obselete. This paper takes a different view. It begins with some anecdotal ball park figures to provide some idea of the magnitude of the changes at hand. A main thrust of the paper outlines ways in which new electronic media can open up new roles for libraries and new relations to museums and education. It challenges an assumption popular in political circles that libraries and museums should be entirely privatized and would be more efficient if they were run as businesses. Some fundamental differences between culture and business are analysed. Some dangers and possibilities are explored.

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