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January 23, 2007

Thoughts about the paperless library

Having been in libraries long enough to remember the much-heralded advent of the paperless office (currently belied by my desktop, among other indicators), I'm not at all worried about the death of the book. Richard Akerman of Science Library Pad summarizes succinctly why it's possible for librarians to hold simultaneously two ideas that are often portrayed as being opposed to each other: Welcoming Google Books and the improved research capability that digitization brings, and loving books per se, as objects of interest, pleasure, and perhaps beauty.

Should we be concerned that reading is on the decline by some accounts (A Librarian's Lament)? or that elementary and high school students may not be getting the broad cultural knowledge they need to be independent thinkers and productive citizens (a review of The Knowledge Deficit, by E. D. Hirsch Jr.) ?

I'm not sure. Reading for pleasure and general knowledge has always been an acquired taste. Is it more important than understanding music or appreciating art, neither of which I do particularly well? I think digital information can supply the basic information we need to conduct our lives and research, and we each find our own sources and formats for the finer things in life.

Posted by janeblum at January 23, 2007 12:26 PM

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