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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Internet and The Library

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 03, 2006

 

Joseph Janes is Associate Dean of the Information School of the University of Washington in Seattle.

 

These are his ideas enhanced by my own experience in a local public library.

 

He states that libraries have all kinds of resources available to satisfy the information needs of the public.

 

He also states that the common questions in our society today are "What do we need libraries for," and "Isn't everything on the Internet?"

 

Those are the same questions asked by legislators, the public, and our society in general.

 

Janes' first point is that everything isn't on the Internet.

 

The pervasiveness of web-based information makes it "seem" like everything is on the Internet that you would ever want, and that isn't true.

 

Information pre-Internet is not in digital format, and not likely available online.

 

Information produced in the early days of Internet is routinely dumped to make room for more, newer information. 

 

The cost of online storage is higher than expected, and it is easier to eliminate information to make room for new.

 

So, if a library doesn't archive it, it is gone forever.  It isn't lurking in the back stacks of a library to be retrieved in the future when needed.

 

Someone was commenting how libraries don't have to keep all those back files of magazines and journals with online databases.

 

Yes, that is correct, and a huge advantage to libraries, but that database costs three times as much as all of our subscriptions, which we still must maintain.

 

And that leads to Janes' second point: even if everything were on the Internet, you couldn't access it.

 

More and more Internet sites have restrictions, password barriers, and registration requirements.

Some want money; others simple want you to register, which will result in a never-ending mass of junk e-mails and solicitations.

 

The "Library" still maintains a sense of "place" in our society, a good thing for all of us to have in our communities.

 

Libraries encourage reading, still needed to use the Internet.  Libraries are a way for our communities and society to be more to people.

 

Libraries are still viewed as being book-oriented; we catalog them and still put those funny numbers on the spine that only librarians understand.

 

Libraries run Bookmobiles, sponsor Summer Reading Club, and have computers for the public to use when a declining number of the public can afford computers and Internet access.

 

People want their libraries to do more programming, to replace the interaction that used to take place in our society.

 

Dr. Janes conclusion is a wonderful statement, "Libraries make humanity more human."

 

We organize, preserve, protect, and make available the human record in a myriad of forms, so it can be consulted and remembered and passed down to those who follow us, in a hope that we can do better next time.

 

As I read the above statement, a library project comes to mind.

 

If the local library system didn't exist, who would have compiled the 2,200 page Jefferson County Veterans of World War II?