Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Library science: The word on our archival future

Library science: The word on our archival future. Michael Lesk. Nature. 23 April 2015.
     Most libraries are facing a “perfect storm”: decreasing use, inadequate resources, and users satisfied with easy access to online information. US research libraries saw a 69% decline in the number of queries handled between 1991 and 2012. Academic library budgets are shrinking: from 3.7% of the total budget of a typical US university in the early 1980s to 1.8% in 2011. About half of an academic library budget is spent on acquisitions, which is increasingly consumed by journals. However, open-access publishers such as the Public Library of Science (PLOS) provide information with no reader fee, changing the economics entirely. School libraries, which still have a key role in teaching scholarly habits, are suffering. “The school library should be as important as the school sports team.” The increasing commercialization of information raises barriers. Digital preservation of library holdings is riskier than traditional methods.

Will governments recognize the importance of libraries and librarians?  Political will is essential, as is innovative energy among librarians. Palfrey hopes that conventional and new library technologies will sit side by side. This is not common in technological change: car-rental companies do not run livery stables. I suspect that a more likely future is that libraries (and museums) will be divided into the 'wholesalers' that have large historic collections, such as the US Library of Congress or the British Library, and the 'retailers' such as university libraries, which serve faculties.

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