Monday October 12, 2009 | Libraries & Books in a Digital Age

October 8, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Coming Up | 11 Comments

We’ll discuss the mission of Public and University Libraries in the digital age. How are Kindles and devices like them changing how libraries operate and how they’re valued by their patrons? How will the Google Book Project and other programs that digitize millions of books affect the future viability of libraries? Join us for a conversation about how libraries are handling these issues.

Charles Brown
– Director of Libraries for the Public Library of Charlotte-Mecklenburg
Stanley Wilder – University Librarian for UNC Charlotte
Sarah C. Michalak – Assoc. Provost for Libraries and University Librarian at UNC Chapel Hill

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  1. What concerns me is something that was alluded to already: the lack of permanence of the digital information. The possibility of ideas being revised or corrupted for ideological reasons seems to me to be the real danger of the intangible nature of digital information. It would be simple to alter digital text but near impossible to alter thousands of already printed books that are in the public’s hands.

    • Your concerns are absolutely on target, Kelly. Two points: first, there is a vast ocean of born-digital information out there, I just mention it because in most cases, we don’t have the luxury of choosing between digital and print preservation.

      Second point, there are many interesting approaches to digital preservation out there, and more to come. Two that come to mind are LOCKSS (built on the principle that multiple copies are safer) and the Internet Archive.

  2. Writing from Mooresville – I work with computers and online research every day so am very comfortable with digitized media, but the idea that everything being wholly available online abhors me. The simple tactile feel of a bound book, the ability to literally flip through a few pages and just the good old thinking of judging a book by the cover seems to all go away with books online.

    So, let me move beyond the above and ask what does all the time online do to one’s eyes over time?

  3. The key contributions of libraries in the digital age: They can be a portal that narrows the “digital divide” and for me, the number one reason — a good library/librarian can help anyone evaluate the reliability of information and information sources (the internet is full of questionable stuff).


  4. Your show inspired me to go by the library to check out a book and….they are CLOSED today!!

    • Reply from Sarah Poole, Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County

      You’re right, Don. Charlotte Mecklenburg Libraries were closed on Columbus Day for a library employee furlough day. This was one of the cost-saving measures the Library took to adjust to reduced levels of funding. (The Library received a 10% reduction in funding from Mecklenburg County this fiscal year.)

  5. Great Show! I listen most every day.
    Much as we seem to believe everyone has full access to computers, that is far from true. As a former teacher, I was well-aware that many familes cannot afford computers. As computers become cheaper, hopefully this will change. And unbelievable as it may seem, some families and individuals do not see computers as a priority in their lives.
    As for libraries, there are lots of people who can’t afford to buy CD’s, DVD, and books. Having a source where they can find and use these things for free is very important.
    One example is the library cart that is kept at a retirenment center here in Hickory. Once a month, the librarian sends a new supply of books, CD’s, and DVD for the people who cannot go out, and who might not be able to afford to buy these things.

    I think libraries are still a VITAL PART OF EVERY COMMUNITY.

    Susan Pleasant
    Hickory, NC

  6. If libraries are the repositories of knowledge, and librarians the studied experts of sorting and finding given pieces of knowledge, then the medium in which the knowledge is stored is of tertiary concern at best. If the growing percentage of knowledge is stored within the Internet in one form or another, librarians need to become experts at finding this information. Please note we don’t still archive papyrus scrolls as the base medium for information storage.

    The printed book is a marvelous invention of the 1300s. eReaders are more modern, but still just a medium of conveying knowledge. The knowledge is what libraries keep and sort, and should be irrespective of medium beyond the security and integrity of the data storage.

    I hope that librarians do not find themselves in the position of buggywhip purveyors, bemoaning that new-fangled gadget, the “horse-less carriage” while waxing about the suppleness of the leather of the whip, and the beauty of the craftsmanship.

    P.S. : Amazon, after the Orwellian 1982 debacle, has changed the license terms of its book sales. A customer does own a copy, non-revocable, of anything they purchase, and Amazon will not remove that copy.

  7. Whoa- It should be noted that internet access, computers and Kindles are not free. Those of us who have been privileged to be able to afford these things should remember that not everyone can go to Starbucks with their laptop. I saw a show on Oprah last week where a young woman who was homeless as a child used the library as her refuge and is now a freshman at Harvard. She would not have been there without the library.

    • I wish we could have spent more time with this incredibly important issue. Preserving and extending equal access to information is a bedrock principle of librarianship. As we explore the impact of the new reading, some significant portion of our efforts must be devoted to closing the information divide.

  8. in today’s NY Times there was an article about a woman, Nina something? who set for herself the goal of reading a book a day for 365 days… she’s within three weeks of accomplishing the goal, and her story was intriguing. she was doing this for the joy of it, and also as part of her coming to grips with the death of her oldest sister…

    as a followup to today’s program, she might make a great interview?

    onemorething: one of your callers mentioned the advantage of writing in the margins of books (over electronic versions)… and the picture of Nina in the paper had a pencil in her hand…. seems there are two camps among readers: those who personalize the paper and write/underline/annotate the text , and those who keep the book in pristine condition…

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