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Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/03/2011 2:19 PM

With information so available on the internet, brick and mortar libraries are becoming obsolete. Do we really need them anymore? I don't think the few non-computer users justify keeping libraries open. So much more information is available over the web than in any library. Information that is in a book in a library 1000 miles away doesn't do anyone much good, but that information can be accessed via internet from anywhere in the world.

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#1

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 2:35 PM

Although there may be more information on the internet I still believe that libraries are more reliable. Not just anyone can go and put their thoughts in a book and get it published and put in libraries nation wide, where as on the internet any fool can type whatever they want about any subject (like me).

Also, even though there is more information on the internet, how much of it is useful? Websites such as IEEExplore with published papers and such I would consider a useful site. But websites like answers.com ("why is water wet? because water is a liquid and one of the main properties of liquids are that they are wet, water is also wet.") are 90% useless. Why would someone drive 1000 miles to check out a book to figure out why water is wet when they can as any 3rd grader.

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#2

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 2:52 PM

Not everyone has access to the Internet. Many people don't have computers; many may not be willing to learn how to use them.

Libraries still serve a role as conservators of rare books and manuscripts. Can't preserve, say the Dead Sea Scrolls solely with a computer.

What if I wanted to actually hold and read a first edition of It Can't Happen Here, or Slide Rule?

What bothers you about keeping libraries open?

There is absolutely still a place for them. harrumph

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 3:14 PM

Agreed. My local library requires sign-in and has a time limit for how long people can use the computers. They are always full of people there to use the Internet.

I use the library because it means I almost never have to spend money on books. All of the libraries in our part of the state are linked, so if your library doesn't have the book you want, you just request it online and it'll be delivered for your use.

Even as e-readers are becoming more popular (and I do have a Kindle for traveling) libraries can loan out e-books. So I don't think that they'll go away any time soon.

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#3

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 2:54 PM

Libraries (like newspapers and magazines) are (mostly) obsolete in their current form but I doubt they will disappear entirely because people like the feel of real books, even given the costs.

Libraries (like newspapers and magazines) will however need to change and adapt if they wish to stay relevant in todays information age. Newspapers and magazines can go to electronic format, libraries could offer other services.

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#5
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Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 3:29 PM

"Libraries... need to change and adapt if they wish to stay relevant..."

I agree with this. I believe that libraries should stay open because... because... well, because they are libraries, and that is enough. In these days of budget concerns, this is not enough for everybody.

Here in Fargo, ND, we had a large remodel/expansion to the library. The new place has many scheduled events for kids and teens, there is a movie day every two weeks, there is a computer use area, there are visiting lecturers of many disciplines and interests... It has become a true multi-purpose civic center, and it is busy most of the time. I even see people looking through the stacks and checking out books!

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#6

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 3:31 PM

I have to agree with Sue on this one.

Purposes I can think of off the top of my head...

1) The public can read books... free.

2) Most provide internet access to those who otherwise don't have it.

3) They provide programs to boost our childrens' ability to read.

4) Our local library also hosts a multitude of other programs, all designed to enhance reading ability, education, and general knowledge of people of all ages. (It also provides a safe and central place for me to offer free tutoring!)

A library's purpose goes far beyond research. That book in the library 1000 miles away helps the reading ability of the people who read it. In a country where kids still are able to graduate from HS - illiterate - it seems that we should be asking why there aren't MORE libraries and not considering their obsolescence.

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#7

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 3:53 PM

As an avid card carrying fan of libraries I couldn't disagree more. Their role is always evolving. Google is great but it will not supplant the library!

Some people actually enjoy getting off their wallets and experiencing the atmosphere. Your statement is akin to saying, "we now have restaurants, no one will ever cook for themselves again"

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#8

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 4:11 PM

My office is about 100 yards from the main post office in my town.

Their parking lot is always full.

I say keep the libraries forever. Kids need to know how to read a book.

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#9
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Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 4:40 PM

See here, Lyn, you're confusing philatelists with bibliophiles. They don't play well together.

And don't even think about bringing numismatists into this.

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#10
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Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 4:52 PM

Don't know what ya mean, lady. I ain't never heared of any o them fancy models.

I see mostly Fords, Chevys, Toyotas, 'n Hondas in the parkin' lot.:>)

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#11

Re: Libraries obsolete?

08/03/2011 5:53 PM

Interesting question.

As a person that's spent probably 1000's of hours in libraries, there is absolutely no replacement for books. We need libraries. The internet, cell phones, kindles and the like are cool..................but it's all just one really big CME from being gone. I can read a book with a candle or a flashlight.

That said, and given our current economic climate, I can't help but wonder if public libraries could be operated more efficiently by a private non profit organization....................that probably won't happen.

However. Here's my proposal: Kids books are free. Computer time is one dollar per hour. Adult books would cost about .25-.50 cents apiece to check out. Everything else would be the same, and the money would go straight back into the library.

I think that would be a fair approach to help keep libraries open.

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#12

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/03/2011 7:58 PM

Judging by my the local libraries here in FLA and the little one in Tellico Plains, Tenn. (Pop. 668) libraries are seeing more use than ever.

Our system in Lee County, FLA just spent over a million dollars on e-books that you can 'check out'.

I still read a book a week on top of reading online countless bacteriological research papers...plus a few hours a week reading what you guys and gals have to say.

That's on top of working 6-8 hours a day... I'm still a little hyper and reading a real book helps to calm me down.

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#13
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/03/2011 8:02 PM

Save yourself while there's still time!! Don't read "my stuff", your brain might turn to Jello!

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#14

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/03/2011 11:20 PM

You can have my books when you pry them from my cold dead fingers!

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In reply to #14

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 12:11 PM

From one book hoarder to another... I was sure I'd find a post by you here.

- Biblio

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#15

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/03/2011 11:41 PM

There are a great many books, documents, manuscripts, etc., kept in libraries which are not online and may never be on line. While I agree that attempting to scan and store digital copies of everything possible may help make them more accessible by more people, that isn't going to happen any time soon. There is just too much to scan and there aren't enough hours in a decade or two or three to get the job done.

While I do not often visit our local library, my own technical library is much larger, I do rely on them to acquire difficult to find books for me and they rarely let me down. I certainly hope that libraries are around for a long time, they are still very useful despite the internet. I also agree that on the net, it is much too easy to put out garbage claiming to be accurate information, that is much harder to do with actual books (happens now and then).

I do not complain about paying a little in taxes to support the local library. They are still valuable even with the net lurking.

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#16

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 1:03 AM

I rarely visit a library. I personally would not miss it if it were to vanish tomorrow. However (and its a big "however") a library is more than a place to get a book. It is a "Temple to Learning". The kid who shows up for the summer reading programme and discovers "books" is WHY we have, and need libraries.

It is a place where you can be free to work the stacks without the bullies and peer pressure groups getting on your case. It is a place to discover things like music, and esoteric things like "Law", or local histories. Oh sure, you can hide from the world in a church, or a hockey arena, or a soda shop but they have agendas, and may be cold or fattening. To my mind, the best place you can duck into before mom and dad get home from work is the local library.

So, although I rarely USE my local library, I make it a point to put it on my charities list.

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#25
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 9:28 AM

Agreed. Here are some advantages of having a b&m library:

1. serves as a vital community center for the children: (Still a great place for kids to hang out and socialize with an interest in books and READING other than video game dens!

2. if conveniently located across from p.s.'s, children utilize its resources to study & do homework rather than waiting to go home or hang out before they start. Know frustrated parents with kids who are up at 10pm still doing homework or studying for a test! Kids form study and homework groups on their own. They help each other and refresh/test their knowledge base. They learn key social skills: communicating with others, disseminate information, thinking skills, assertiveness as well as empathy to other opinions.

3. Daily story hours and other programs are held for younger children where parents can "drop" their children off and pick them up when done. Free babysitting and reading/tutoring options. Great way for kids to read than watching "Elmo" or "Dora" on tv...

4. Good place to network with other professionals who just "need a break" or quieter place to work in the evenings. I was able to land 3 clients and my current job through another regular visitor.

5. Offer free and nominal cost programs for adults: senior movie times, book discussion groups, learning or enhancing their computer software knowledge, , - Do kindle users gather round with their pads and discuss their readings?

6. Utilize current books (h.c. and audio), CD's, movies, magazines at no cost!

7. Librarians still offer free information!

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#17

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 1:44 AM

I hope the OP meant this in irony or devil's advocacy.

From Jorge Luis Borges:
I believe books will never disappear. It is impossible for it to happen. Of all man's diverse tools, undoubtably the most astounding are his books... If books were to disappear, history would disappear. So would man.

This is the theme line for our local librarian's weekly "Book Talk" segment on KBRD, our NPR station.

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#18

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 2:11 AM

Unless the world is increasingly made up of malenkiy malchiki infesting the Internet....

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#19

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 4:21 AM

When I was young, we're talking 35 years ago, I had a hobby. It was making explosives.

I obtained most of my information from reference books in the local library.

Purely for interest I recently looked up on the internet a method for producing a particularly dangerous explosive. Anyone following the instructions I found would kill or seriously injure themselves.

There is a lot of dangerous, misleading, rubbish out there and I suspect a lot of people today have never learnt how to verify information but simply accept the first result Google throws up.

No, we still need our libraries for the foreseeable future.

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#20

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 6:50 AM

I put forward three points in favour of retaining libraries (not in any order if priority)

Speak to any teacher or college lecturer with twenty years in the job, and you will hear the complaint that many students today lack attention span and depth. They cannot concentrate for long periods and their understanding is superficial. This is blamed on the internet, where knowledge is accessed quickly without having to wade through a load of supplementary information to get to the nub of information that you need. Reading books requires concentration for longer terms, and libraries provide access to a book that may only be needed once so you cannot justify its purchase.

There is very little literature on the web. If you don't believe me, try reading on the web a full novel by Mark Twain or Voltaire, a full play by William Shakespeare or Anton Chekhov, or a full poem by Keats or Robert Frost. You may not wish to be cultured, some of the rest of us do. I own over 1000 books, if I had to buy all the books I wish to read, my house is not large enough to store them.

The "small" proportion of the population that you dismiss as non computer users may not have access because they cannot afford it. What happened to equality of access to education. You condemn them and their children to lives of poverty or menial jobs through lack of access to books and the means to improve their lives. The cost to you of benefit handouts is higher than the cost to you of funding libraries.

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#43
In reply to #20

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 12:35 PM

To your first point, it's not just the Internet that causes a lack of being able to focus. Look at TV, especially commercials. The shot/scene lifetime is very short. Women's hair and makup commercials are some of the worst in that regard. I mentioned in another thread that most music videos/concerts are filmed in this same manner. You can go mad trying to get even a 5 second look at ANYTHING.

I partially agree with the second point, but mostly because a lot of people don't find it pleasurable to sit at a computer monitor to read. But the Gutenberg Project offers a lot of literary "classics" They have Kindle versions if your inclined to that format.

And your third point is right on.

- Biblio

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#21

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 7:29 AM

First off libraries provide a back up of that information which is readily available on the internet. It is in a written form that may survive some type of holocaust. With all these small libraries in communities around the world we can be insured some of it will survive. It also is provides a place that the information you get on the internet can be clarified. The internet is full of disinformation also.

Second not all the books stored in our libraries are just for information. A major portion are works of art. Though they are copies of the originals. They have been provided by the artist for our enjoyment thru the state purchase of licensed copies. One thing the state has done with my tax dollars that I approve of and could do more. With little cost to us. You don't get copies of these works of art from the internet unless you pay for it.

Plus with out them where would Huck, Bilbo, Odd and my other friends live!

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#22

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 8:13 AM

I am in favour of keeping libraries. I much prefer to read a book than to read on line. I can put down a book and get back to it later. I never get back to something on line.

In the past governments have re written history to suit their political agenda. With the internet that is too easy.

Libraries weed out books that are not being red but they keep clasics. How would a book ever become a clasic on the interned when everything is written in condenced form for people to read before they are distracted to another page.

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#23

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 8:43 AM

An interesting opposing viewpoint from most of ours..........about books in general.

http://english.varsavskyfoundation.org/educar/online-learning-vs-textbook-learning.html

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#26
In reply to #23

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 9:28 AM

As my sig line currently suggests: I always find "total ignorance" interesting;

"4. Textbooks require paper that requires the cutting down of trees. On-line learning is not harmful to the environment."

So; how many tons of fossil does it take to run all the servers and computers on the internet per day?

And how many trees (or tons of carbon) are sequestered in textbooks?

We are not talking daily newspapers and junk mail tonnage, or instant scrap, here. Textbooks are minimum 1 year life, often 10, and some are perpetual.

And the balance of 'arguments' is a "chooks breakfast" of logic. As of #8, it's growing culpable stupidity. "Authoritative"? WTF does 'text' mean?

As of #14: Learning to imagine is the biggest obvious victim, of this peanut "social entrepreneur"

Excellent example of Online Learning!

This bleeding total pillock should go get some!

('some' may replaced by adverbs, and/or verbs, of the readers preference)

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#28
In reply to #26

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 9:37 AM

I wonder if you could find a book that derides books, in the library?

Another nice thing about libraries. The non fiction sections contain facts about certain subjects............................very little, if any, in the way of opinion. Nice and clean.

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#33
In reply to #26

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 4:43 PM

Add:

"4. Textbooks require paper that requires the cutting down of trees..."

Guess this a.h. never print any information on paper? Super photographic memory?

And did we sit around fires and grunt for the last 2000 years?

Look at the history of man and all the inventions based on book learning and imagination!

Recalling science projects that were fun and creative resulting in A's not aided by the computer...not to mention the widespread plagiarism that kids copy and paste from online today...

Where is the originality and creativity now??? Oops I forgot: it's called photoshop!

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#48
In reply to #33

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 1:32 PM

Couldn't help but wonder if your moniker emanates from the film... if so, it's wonderful, isn't it?

- Biblio

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#71
In reply to #48

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 2:55 PM

Sorry bit sleepy today, but yes, it is!

Will take B&W anyday over some of what they call "entertainment" today!

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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 1:29 PM

Yes, kramarat, some interesting and good points there.

- Biblio

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#24

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 9:25 AM

Here's a nugget that has not been mined yet:

As a local historical manuscript caretaker, I am in charge of the saving of nearly 200 years of local history in written, audio, and picture format. We have a huge collection - 600 square feet solidly packed over 7 feet high! 10% of it is uncatalogued and unavailable to the public in any way shape or form. We get hundreds - if not thousands - of pages of this uncatalogued information catalogued every year, making that much more available to the public.

Five percent of our collection is digitized and available to the public via the internet. 85% of it is EXCLUSIVELY available to the public through the local Public Library and a full 90% of it is available to the public via the library. Honestly, if someone came in knowing that the paperwork they seek is probably there, the librarian would search the uncatalogued stuff to see if she could help out. Your computer WILL NOT do that!

We are one organization in one community in one state. I would guess that there are literally millions of manuscripts per state in this union that are NOT digitized and available on the internet.

It takes money to digitize a collection. It takes a bored kid (or kid at heart) with time on their hands to spew some poorly researched information for his friends and followers on the internet. The internet is a very young entity, and the hard-copy manuscripts have been piling up since the beginning of modern times! Certainly in the last 150 years the paperwork has been piling up faster than paid people can type to copy it in to the computer (which by the way is NOT considered an accurate copy), or even digitize (scan it in - a presumably accurate copy) and then write a PROPER description so you can find it on the internet. The internet can never completely ever catch up - henceforth the library and similar entities are forever necessary.

Plus all the reasons above!

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#27

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 9:36 AM

Y'all should watch "Desk Set" with Tracy and Hepburn

Just a movie but how true and ahead of its time....

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#29

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 11:20 AM

I think it is fair to say that our civilization would not exist without the ability to record information with some degree of permanence... so whether the book is clay tablets, papyrus, or other... we wouldn't be here without them.. and to consider eliminating them is the apex of folly.

Our civilization is not necessarily on the increase, and to eliminate the single most important factor in the knowledge base is a towering mountain of blindness and lack of understanding.

Our history is a history of war, floods, fires, and many other entropic catastrophes, plagues, and setbacks... Books have saved us so far...

I can't say enough...

Chris

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#30

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 1:15 PM

I weep for Alexandria.

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#37
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 7:11 PM

me too! ga

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#31

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 1:25 PM

Interesting topic Ronseto. I was listening to a radio station discussing a book by Siva Vaidhyanathan, The Googlization of Everything (And why we Should Worry). I have not yet read the book but the topic was current and of interest. We are still in the infant stage of information dissemination and will likely see the internet evolve tremendously in the next 15 years. We are very fortunate that the internet is not in state control or our information may become very biased on what a state wants us to know. One danger that lurks with a giant like Google controlling much of what we access is that we depend on their discretion for allowing access to good information. Should we not be concerned when you Google ( see its already a verb and a noun) a subject and are presented with priority sites? Are these sites what Google wants us to see or are they commercial sites presented because they paid Google money for the priority listing?

I tend to search scholarly sites but too often they will only release their information when I have paid their fees. Often when you do think everything is OK, you will find they have sent you weak information. It is becoming very difficult to differentiate good information. A library will at least contain hard copies but often they can provide primal information; that is, information written by the founder of the subject and not distorted by rewriting and parsing.

Anyway, I thought I would add my opinion and warning about depending too much on the internet. I will likely order (via internet) Siva's book and become hopefully more aware.

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In reply to #31

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 12:42 PM

If you aren't aware or just don't think about it much, please check into BookTV. The author you mentioned was covered by them and his talk is available for viewing at the website. I try to look every weekend to see what is coming up on the BookTV (CSPAN2) schedule. This is a wonderful resource.

- Biblio

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#63
In reply to #44

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/06/2011 11:21 PM

Thanks, I will bookmark this and view it later as it is over one hour long. Interesting discussion and it, the direction we choose to access the internet, will surely have a large impact on all societies. I would hate to think a Stalin, Hitler, or other omnipotent despot ever has the chance to to control any aspect of the internet. Libraries seem to be our best surety against the potential abuse that can occur. But the internet can also be a good policeman of itself and in the future may take the control from a singular giant with such vast control. Thanks again for the site, and maybe the word of mouth passing of good sites is a better method than "Google" get what ever is presented.

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#64
In reply to #63

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/07/2011 12:22 AM

There are actually many examples of governments attempting to censor or otherwise manipulate the Internet, from China to Venezuela to Iran and North Korea and Lybia. This is not an idle threat. While such governments also have the capacity to burn books and otherwise limit one's access to "damaging" information, it does seem that the Internet may be more vulnerable than traditional knowledge stores.

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#65
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/07/2011 12:47 AM

You can add Australia to that list.

It was actually fairly funny when the "mega buck content filter" was circumvented in 10 seconds by half the primary school kids, brought in to demonstrate its 'effectiveness' in front of the media.

I may be wrong, but I think similar attempts have been made in UK, US and a number of other 'free democratic nations'.

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#32

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 4:12 PM

Guys,

Libraries are forever. Those that do not believe this have to understand the importance of books. I remember when I was a young child , I had ALL the family's library tickets, (one book per ticket) so I ended up with 11 books per week - I used to go to the library on Saturday mornings take out my 11 books and return them on the following Saturday. All my school projects were sourced from the same library. If they did not have the book that I wanted, I filled in a form and the book was, generally, available by the following Saturday. I have continued that process all my life, I can get almost anything that I want to read in that way.

I recently read a book which was extremely diverting and with many , many references. I am starting to work through those references with my local library. (I bought the book as our local libraries had a temporary finacial hold on buying books)

During my working life I managed to find pretty well anything that I wanted to read on a subject limited only by Availability and Security.

Libraries have been my source of books for my childen and grandchildren. I have never stopped buying books; I get my review copy from the library and my personal copy from a bookseller! Recently I found a really good book about number theory in my local library ( aimed at the younger group) - I ended up by buying several copies for all my children and grandchildren. I doubt that I would ever have found this book without the local library. I also found some really fun books for the youngest family members including " Have you seen the Crocodile"

PS, I also read lots of stuff on the Internet!! I also have an eBook, as does my wife and we still buy books and borrow books from the library.

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#34
In reply to #32

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 5:02 PM

Came to US in Nov of '76, learned to speak, read and write Eng by Jan. '77

No ESL classes then, attended 1st grade in the a.m. and 3rd grade in the p.m for 5.5 mos. of the school season so i could attend 4th grade in Sept.

Best presents i received were books and 100 issues of b/w and color nat'l geographics! There's nothing like a great book or magazine to fuel the thirst for knowledge!

Now i watch jeopardy and realize i know a lot of useless information!

Kids today may have technicality down but without calculators and computers, they're useless! Writing, Spelling, Reading, Creative Thinking are sadly lacking!

and forget knowledge of history and current events...They may be able to spew out verbatims but ask them "why" or "how" and blank faces stare at you like you just asked them the riddle of the sphinx...

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#35

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 6:03 PM

I am happy for libraries to go, providing all the old books and periodicals on radio from 1880 to 1930 and all the archives of all newspapers are available on the Internet, and I can have free access thru a computer.

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#36
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 6:25 PM

See post #11. I think if we decide to digitize everything that's fine. If we manage to unlearn the old school methods of anything, I believe we do so at our own peril.

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#52
In reply to #35

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 4:26 PM

Nevermind...

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#53
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 4:27 PM

Sorry Phaddy - I guess I missed the sarcasm in your voice!

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#38

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 10:17 PM

This is a very unusual forum. I agree with all the pro-library/librarian remarks.

One more aspect:

Every 3-5 years I need the services of a professional (research) librarian. Some 2 years ago I needed a writing (article, technical paper, book or what?) from the 1930s or so. I knew the name of the author, that's it! She located 2 promising books in cold storage 2 states away. Two weeks later I saw them. Since they were unique copies, I could not borrow them. I spent a couple of hours copy the one I wanted from cover to cover.

Where did I found this gem of a person? In the main branch of the New York City Public Library. Yes, they work mostly out of limelight, but, when you need them, you need them. For a different angle check out the genealogy library of the mormons, and that in Ellis Island.

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#39

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/04/2011 10:57 PM

I do not want to live in a world without libraries...

Despots and dictators burn books. Why?

Religious fanatics denounce, ban or otherwise attempt to interfere with the publication of books. Why?

Give me libraries, or give me death!

Yeah, I know it's not original, but it is meaningful...

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#40
In reply to #39

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 7:01 AM

Good answer. Nice paraphrase. And its no worse than the common bowlderized version of his real speach.

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#41

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 12:07 PM

You have all made excellent points as to why libraries should stay open. I guess it depends on what information one is looking for and where it is located and where the person is located. In my case, I research drawings and plans of railroad equipment. My local library would be hard pressed to even have books about railroads much less technical information. The only places where the information I seek is located is around centers of railroad activity, like Scranton, Pa or Milwaukee. It is impossible for me to go to those cities and the internet allows me to access such information. As a kid, (a very long time ago) I used to spend a lot of time in my public library in new York. They had most of what I was looking for at the time, but there was still some that was located in some other city, I couldn't access, until now. Speaking strictly from my own experience, libraries don't serve me, but if others find libraries serve them, then who am I to argue. I'm just not sure how long libraries can survive. The few times I have been to a library lately, they were empty. I went to look up a name in a telephone directory and of course they didn't have a directory for that particular city. I realize there is a lot of disinformation on the internet, but I never accept anything without question. I sometimes search for patent information. Libraries don't have that information, but I can find it at the patent office online. I now live in a small urban community and the people are not into Shakespeare, Browning or Keats. They are more into hunting, fishing and guns, so the local library caters to that genre. You could call this a "backward" area of the country I live in, but the people are nice.

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#50
In reply to #41

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 1:51 PM

I thought most libraries had an "Inter Library Loan" system? maybe that is just canada.

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#55
In reply to #50

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 5:00 PM

Chris,

I can get hold of almost anything that exists in print in the UK. that means just about everything that has been printed. 3 major libraries ( British Library; Cambridge Library, Oxford Bodleian Library - and there used to be one other central Library which may still exist - it used to be my Library of choice, somewhere up North) in the UK receive a copy of every book, magazine etc that is printed in the UK. They probably receieve many other books as well but I am not aware, these days, of that detail.

My local libraries can get hold of anything that is available through a multiple lending Library resource which I believe is a model used in many major countries - such as Canada. ( Exceptions may include major specialist magazines such as Nature where a subscription is generally required_ I used to be able to access these but almost 10 years of retirement slows one down a touch!)

As someone else mentioned you are unlikely to be able to borrow unique items, but I have found ways to get around that in past years when I was using Libraries for Industrial purposes. And there are fewer fully unique items these days.

A very interesting discussion and we need to be able to fight, if neccesary, for our libraries.

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#45

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 12:44 PM

When the next wave of terrorism takes full swing (I predict it will be strategically placed EMP's aimed to take down our communications/networking/electronics) we will need a reliable place to keep our information which is safe from such attacks. Libraries are essential for this function, and in the case our communications centers are inoperable, you might just see a influx of library users.

OK... I'm done with my doom and gloom for the moment.

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#46

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 1:20 PM

There are 2 things that concern me the most about digitizing everything, even.

1) History and thoughts can be changed more easily. Books aren't immune, as China and the Soviet Union are good examples. History can be skewed, rewritten, or eliminated... take your pick... even in printed form. But it's just too easy to change things digitally. I realize that also is more difficult than one would imagine, but how do you compare digital copies with others if you suspect yours has been modified? It has to be displayed or printed. Two worriesom trends and instances are written about here and here (Executive Order 13233).

2) As people have pointed out on this topic in the past, what happens if the power grid goes down. Batteries in Kindles only last so long. What if they aren't available? Sounds incredibly paranoid, but then, aside from conspiracy and cyber-attack scenarios, massive natural disasters can happen that can reduce our "advanced" civilization to pretty much rubble. Of course, the books may not survive that either, but they have a better chance, in my opinion.

On the plus side of digitalization, I would rather have most of the trees that have been cut down for so much useless and redundant information. (Both for their beauty and oxygen.) I've pondered before... as an exercise, I would perform analysis on an "all digital" database of books. I would first create a Master index for all books in existence (literature is more difficult to be subjected to this, but redundancy exists there, too.. as in, how many love songs do we really need -- answered by Paul McCartney; "What's wrong with that?" A lot of them are silly.). Then I would try to find some algorithm to see how much smaller a library could be and still contain all the unique information. How many books about the Civil War warrant the paper? Fine folks writing them, but so much information repeated over and over.

Bottom line. I'll keep my large collection of books. And I hope libraries NEVER go away.

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#58
In reply to #46

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 8:34 PM

I agree with your first two points.

Then you mentioned this:

Then I would try to find some algorithm to see how much smaller a library could be and still contain all the unique information. How many books about the Civil War warrant the paper? Fine folks writing them, but so much information repeated over and over.

While that sort of makes sense on the surface.....the question is who gets to decide what books or songs or papers to keep and which ones get tossed out? While we may not need all the silly love songs we have....or all the books on the civil war....but what makes one individuals choice better than another? what makes one algorithm's choices better than another....who gets to generate said algorithm?

I would prefer what we have now to that type of system.

I suspect we have bigger problems as a country or planet to wrestle with than reducing the paper content in libraries.

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#68
In reply to #46

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 8:53 AM

An interesting point concerning digitizing vs. "hard copy" that libraries maintain.

I've worked for years in the aerospace industry performing weld engineering work. As you would imagine, a good portion of the weld work has to be x-ray inspected to verify quality. A few years back, "Digital Radiography" came about in other industries where the images were captured and stored digitally rather than on film. Obviously one could store many more images efficiently through electronic means than dealing with the bulky film.

However, the aerospace industry has been very slow and skeptical in embracing the concept. It's fear (Be it forward thinking or perhaps uninformed) is that with the ever changing technology, is it possible that the required hardware/software needed to "read" the digital images could become obsolete? Their fear is that God forbid an accident were to happen where a weld was suspect, they could not retrieve the stored image to allow proper investigation. The thinking was that one could always retrieve a sheet of film from the archives should the need arise.

Again, perhaps this was forward thinking to stave off the above scenario or ill informed as to "readers" that will always be able to go back to older technology to interpret the digital radiography.

Perhaps the debate to keep libraries so we are able to maintain that tactile reference vs digitizing all books is somewhat related.

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#75
In reply to #68

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 7:49 PM

Weldeng-

You bring up a very good point, that I just ran in to in another venue this past week. Seems we have some older programmable radios for internal communications. Wanting to modify the stored frequencies, a search determined that, although we could come up with the software for accomplishing this, the software would not run on newer computers. Newer software from the same manufacturer won't communicate with the older radios...and the manufacturer could care less about providing updated software- they would rather sell us new radios to replace perfectly good equipment...

One also runs in to difficulty with "standard" file formats quite frequently that have fallen by the wayside- especially with graphics and CAD (just have a look at how many different versions of the *.dxf "universal standard" there are!). I have one graphics program (Blender) that is supposedly compatible with over 20 different "standards"- but it is pretty iffy as to whether the program can open any particular file in most of these formats that I have worked with.

I would say the aerospace people were being prescient...

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#76
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 10:20 PM

The nightmare of backward compatibility in CAD, yes indeed it is. But you made me think of Word going .doc to .docx, and they virtually had to be forced to provided backward compatibility. A 'nothing before this date matters' attitude.

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#49

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 1:45 PM

The first libraries consisted of scrolls, not books, yet the conversion to books didn't signal the end of libraries, nor did the invention of the printing press 1000s of years later. I doubt the change from books to digital media will result in the end of libraries either.

I think there will always be a place for libraries in society. A library is not really a collection of books for the community as much as it's a collection of free information for the community. Is there anything more democratic than a society pooling money together to pay so that all citizens have an equal opportunity to be informed? That is what libraries really are about. Making knowledge and information free. Microfilm, music, video, magazines have long been available at libraries. I imagine these mediums, as well as books, will be digitized in the future and access will be through devices like e-readers, tablet computers, etc.

They may look different in the future, but there will still be libraries.

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#51

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 3:38 PM

I think we would severely miss them should they become extinct. While not as educationally relevant, it would be like missing the now extinct drive in movie theaters.

Back when you had those, folks could take their whole families to watch double features for one price. Parents played with their kiddos on the playgrounds in front below the big screen. Even after reaching the age where it wasn't cool to go with mom and Dad, you soon started to appreciate what you and the other teenagers enjoyed about the drive in movies. (You might consider that somewhat educational!)

I remember moving to a state in the deep south of the US where a few of them still survived (at that time) and took my young ones there. They were completely amazed that you could actually sit in the bed of your pick up and watch a movie. Of course video games put an end to that rather quickly.

The point is, pushing the older ways of doing things aside to make way for newer technology isn't always for the best. It could also be argued that we are throwing away some of the things that shaped our lives like nothing new can.

I say keep them!

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#54

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 4:38 PM

I think these are great questions. I graduated from a well-regarded accredited information science (basically = library science, depended on who you talk to) grad program in 2010, but now work in the information services industry. In my opinion, one of the issues here is that the profession itself is in the midst of a major identity crisis. Libraries know they have to change, but are not quite sure how or in which direction to travel.

On one hand, libraries are useful as community centers, especially in urban areas. Some library schools now require their grad students to take courses in social work, if that gives you any idea. The vast majority of queries encountered at a public library reference desk involve locating the bathroom, troubleshooting word processing software and finding tax/employment forms. Sad or surprising as it may seem, it's the community center aspect that's made libraries so valuable during recent economic struggles.

As others have said, libraries containing 'information guides' (ie librarians) are invaluable. Just as we, 20 years ago, took the advice of a librarian regarding information sources, young people now take the advice of Google's algorithm. In short, if it doesn't show up on the first page of search results, it's irrelevant. Along the OP's lines, though, you don't need a physical structure to receive that kind of personal guidance.

Both of these assets are valuable in different ways. Countless authors have noted the intangible benefit of a brick and mortar library: all have found a nook in their public libraries and just get inspired to write there. As the librarian population gets younger (current profession is 64% 45+ and 40% 55+) I'm thinking we'll see more sweeping adaptation and positive change.

I'll step off the stump now...

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#59
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 9:27 PM

Welcome to CR4. great first post.... ga (good answer vote)

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#60
In reply to #54

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/06/2011 12:56 AM

"... Google's algorithm. In short, if it doesn't show up on the first page of search results, it's irrelevant."

You raise a major difference between a librarian and a search engine.

Firstly the 'first page' is either on 'number of hits', or a paid-for bias - leading to 'number of hits'. It is self magnifying and if the first pages are all 'rubbish', one can spend hours rephrasing to get past the tabloid fluff it thinks you want.

A librarian is somewhat better at grasping this. A librarian is not likely to send you to making the movie and 10 porno sites, for asking about "muscles that make a fist"

Also the algorithms attempt to profile the user (typecast) whereas a librarian is capable of accepting you may wish to know about weird, diverse and ostensibly unrelated subjects in your searches.

Or next time you go in and ask for information on the "geometry of ball cocks" a librarian will send you to plumbing.

The algorithm will see the 100 hits used trying to escape 'tabloid fluff/movie/porn' as 'user interests' and send you guess where.

I.e. there is a distinct difference between 'not on the net' and being able to 'find it on the net'.

Meaning; the algorithms commonly present a wall of dumb and stupid as the 'authoritative wisdom of the day'.

Need I say; "Over Unity Hobbit", or HHO, or "Cold Fusion", or "Clean Coal", or "Designed Science", or, again, carbon sequestered in books compared to that burned per second running the Net? Or the unilateral ignorance of enthalpy, photosynthesis, carbon cycle, growth and biosphere energy, that underlies this whole "cutting trees" nonsense.

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#79
In reply to #54

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/09/2011 5:30 PM

Thanks for your expert opinion.

I've been away from the discussion for awhile, (three days at Disneyland with small children, almost killed me) but I'm happy to see that most contributors to this thread are intelligent and well grounded. And that's not just because they agree with me.

If you don't mind my asking, how did you ever find this place or this thread.

Welcome to CR4, by the way.

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#56

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 6:33 PM

I didn't expect such a positive response for keeping libraries. I wonder how many that responded actually spend time in their libraries. The information I seek is not available in a "public" library. I have to look in private libraries, like those associated with historical societies that have collections that have been endowed to them. I'm sure the Smithsonian and the library of congress would have what I am looking for, but it would be difficult to access them from far away. I'm particular interested in old drawings and blueprints and I know they are not available at my local library or even one like the New York public library.

I started this thread from the point of view that information I want is not available to me and somehow, I inadvertally suggested libraries were obsolete. That was from my perspective and I apoligize for giving the impression that I don't think libraries should remain open.

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#57
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/05/2011 7:30 PM

ronseto,

I work at a university and am in the library every week. I have 354 books checked out currently. (That's stupid under most circumstances, I know, but my circumstances are odd -- besides they let research staff check out for a year at a time.) So, yes, I use the library a lot. Many books in a library of the size of a university are both out of print and/or very expensive. It's wonderful from that perspective. We also have quite a video library, so checking out videos is another avenue of interest.

Good thread idea.

- Biblio

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#67
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Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 7:50 AM

Ronseto you sure your not Ray Bradbury incognito an doing research on a sequel.

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#61

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/06/2011 12:11 PM

I quite agree with 34point5 on useless garbage showing up on internet searches. I have spent a great deal of time trying to track down very specific items on the net, rephrasing time and again and coming up empty or having to drill down many pages before finding anything close to what I was looking for. Quite often, I fail to find what I'm looking for, but on the other hand, I have also found a lot of good information as well. This is the paradox of the search engines algorithms.

I have often been able to request specific publications through my local library, it gives me access to a huge number of libraries across the U.S.A. including universities. Granted, there are publications that can't leave the premises, but often they will provide photocopies at little or no charge if possible. These publications are not available on line generally or in some instances require a membership or large fee to access them which the library covers.

I rather doubt that everything ever printed will be available on line. I don't care to read books on a small screen, I like to hold them in my hands while reading them. I have a large collection, many of which are not available on line. ebooks may be convenient to many but still have drawbacks. I have considerable technical data on my computer, which I use often, but I'm not fond of reading it on a monitor, in fact, if I need to use it very much, I print it out, I can't take the monitor with me to every work bench I use. I do try to minimize how much I print out so I'm not wasting paper.

Long live libraries, a truly great invention!

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#62

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/06/2011 4:57 PM

One of the most valuable features of the internet is being able to access manufacturer's catalogs. It enables me to design projects without the need to call a company or write for a catalog. Everything is right there at my fingertips. A public library, other than a technical library wouldn't have such information. Even the tech library might not have the latest catalogs.

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#66

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/07/2011 7:47 PM

If all you want to do is read the latest bestseller, yes - are obsolete.

But as someone said, libraries are more than just books. They are, for instance, collections of personal correspondence, community records, old newspapers, maps, illuminated medieval manuscripts, local history, historical sheet music, out of print books, out of favor knowledge etc. etc. Unless you want to get put in charge of scanning all that stuff and putting it on the net, leave the libraries alone.

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#69

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 2:22 PM

The worry about whether or not a 'digital' format will still be available, even in just a couple of decades, for example, is quite valid. There are already many digital formats which are obsolete and are impossible or nearly so to find the software and/or hardware with which to read it.

For example, the old 8" floppy disk, while there are still some pieces of hardware around, the parts to repair them are not. We have already declared the 5 1/4" and 3" floppy formats obsolete are the drives to read them are becoming harder to find. Software companies are pushing obsolescence onto the user faster and faster, Microsoft cuts off support for Windows versions and most everybody else follows for various reasons.

NASA has had problems trying to read archived data because there isn't any equipment available to read the old formats, I've read several articles about their difficulties trying to retrieve the data and restore it in a more modern version. This problem exists for libraries as well, many archived documents, publications, etc., are in forms no longer supported and the machines which read this stuff are becoming almost impossible to find.

Tape recorders lasted for about 50 years, the cassette, about 30, the CD is in danger of becoming obsolete already. The VCR was mainstream for 20 years, DVDs are being replaced (eventually) by Blu Ray in less than 15 years. We are rushing ever faster to replace formats and get rid of the older ones. This, in my opinion is folly, we are losing huge amounts of 'information', in one form or another, just for the sake of progress and that is not good! There is no physical way of continually updating data formats to keep up with changes!

Film, properly cared for, has a long life span, B&W about 100 years, color about 60 years, digital? we don't know yet, it hasn't been around that long and I haven't heard of any life tests that have produced agreed upon results. They are estimating that a CD or DVD may have a life span of 35+ years if cared for properly....how many of us are doing that? Usually a CD or DVD gets muffed up within a few years of use, ever seen those in a library? I doubt those last even a few years.

We've got old audio recordings, Edisons, 78s, etc., which are over 100 years and still playable, will we be able to say that about any of the current technologies? I rather doubt it.

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#70
In reply to #69

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 2:31 PM

You forgot to compare the lifespan of a written document... say... thousands of years possible?

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#72
In reply to #70

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 3:11 PM

yes, try 5500 years!

Imagine a world where no writing (in any format) was not preserved????

Where would we be now?

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#73
In reply to #70

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 3:42 PM

Sorry, I didn't forget about the written word, just had to leave and didn't have time to go on. Yes, I quite agree with you, where would we be without the written word (or printed word now)?

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#77
In reply to #69

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/09/2011 8:17 AM

I very much agree. Perhaps these folks are to be considered forward thinking for demanding that we utilize x-ray film for quality verification. That is until we can be assured that we'll have a guaranteed way to read digital x-rays in the foreseeable future.

Thanks for viewpoint.

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#74

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/08/2011 5:10 PM

On top of all the good stuff that has been said, there is something rather special about being totally engaged with (and seeing kids totally engaged with) something other than a screen, be it computer, TV or smartphone. There is something special about holding a book and flicking through the pages. There is something special about seeing shelves full of books.

I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to visit the Merton College library in Oxford (older than the Bodleian), and the British library in London, where you can see almost anything. But neither of these is any more special or useful that the municipal library down the road. Libraries are irreplaceable, and certainly not by the internet (not for quite a while yet anyway).

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#78
In reply to #74

Re: Libraries Becoming Obsolete?

08/09/2011 9:43 AM

Holzfeller,

Lucky you to get to an Oxford Library; I lived in Cambridge for a number of years and I never got to the Cambridge Library! Jealous I am!

The only difference between these libraries and our local libraries is that these guys have 100% of everything ever printed so that you can theoretically go to that library and ask to see a unique article that you need to read.

it does break down when a 'squirrel' has got his paws on a wanted item. But then the librarian should request that book back from the holder. This generally happens.

I once commisioned a work by a fellow engineer which started the UK work on a particular topic. Many years later I saw the book on a list and requested it and I then kept hold of it for a number of years - yes it was a topic that was not that fashionable at the time.

I then had the book requested by the librarian so I returned it; it was then sold by the libarary as being irrelevant!

Que Sera!

Sleepy

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