Libraries and Librarians In A Digital Future: Where Do We Fit?

I have recently become convinced our future is digital. After following the Google and The Illiterate Monks thread, and reading "How Transistor Radios and Web (and Newspapers and Hi-Fi radio) are Alike" I believe I can see a small bit of the future, and it's not paper based. I'm not even sure I can see a place for libraries. It's not that I want the future to be like this, I believe, as the old saying goes, there is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to a digital future.


For years I've been on the fence when it comes to our digital future. I've always bought into the assumption that books are here to stay. That libraries will always have a place. That 100 years from now we'll still want to browse the stacks to see what's related. I think I've fallen off that fence, and landed on the side with the digitalists. I've chosen sides based on things I've read from both the crumugednons like Gorman, and the many techno-freaks on the other side. I don't know what this means for the millions of books we hold currently. I don't know what this means for the future of libraries & librarians, nor do I know what, if anything, we can do to ensure we're still around in 20 years, but below I'll share with you why I've moved from fence sitter, to digitalist.The biggest threat we're facing isn't one of content, certainly we have the goods, but rather it's the package. Or, like Chrystie Wrote, these new tools are replacing the library for people's daily information needs. Society in general, and younger people in particular, are moving away from the printed word, our bread and butter for a century or two now, and away from libraries, for a number of reasons. Why should they care about or use print? They can't put it on their iPod. They can't put it on their laptop. And they can't view it on a screen. They get most of the answers they need from Google. This is the essence of my argument. If most people are able to "get served" elsewhere, why do they need a book, a library, or a librarian?


It doesn't matter if you think digital isn't as stable as print. It doesn't matter if you think it's impossible to read for extended periods of time on electronic media. It doesn't matter if you think Google isn't meeting their needs. And it certainly doesn't matter if you think books are more convenient. Some of those things may be true today, but none of them will be true in 10 years.


You can't search on printed book. If the index missed what you're looking for, you'll need to do some digging. You can't hyperlink from a printed page. And you'll never fit more than one printed book into, well, a printed book. All those things you think are so great about print are the same things millions of kids think is completely wrong. The technology exists now to realistically begin moving away from print, not because it's just the latest gizmo fad, but because it's going to be cheaper, faster, easier, AND just as stable as, and just as good, if not better than, print. We'll have the ability to make connections between writings that have never been seen before. We'll be able to search and research across millions of "books" to find information in ways that will change how we learn. We'll be able to carry around more than one book in a single reader.


The flexibility afforded by digital devices is the biggest selling point for me. I can carry around 1,000 books on a single device. If the print is too small, I can make it bigger. If the print is too large, I can make it smaller. And of course, you can't grep a dead tree. I can search through one or 100 books at once to find a word of phrase. If I'm tired I can have my reader read to me, and if the book is written in Spanish, it will translate for me.


And what of the fragile nature of digital media? LOCKSS! Lots Of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe. Digital archives are now measured in PETAbytes. We reached the point of no return years ago. With backups on tapes, optical media, flash media, and hard drives, our bytes are as safe as or more safe than paper ever was. Digital records are now as permanent as paper.


So will we really need to have buildings filled with paper copies of knowledge? If everything produced in the future is available electronically, will we print and store copies? In 10 years will libraries stop adding new print items and become archives of printed works from "the good old days?" If I had all the answers I might be able to make myself rich and famous. My guess is our roles as librarians will change very little. We'll still provide access to paid databases (assuming the still exist). We'll teach and educate. And we'll store and provide access to information. I now think that will be largely stored electronically. But what of Google, et. al, will they replace even our role as teachers because they'll be so easy to use?


Gorman apparently spent his LITA keynote comparing real cataloging with web indexing. This seems to me, a futile pursuit, like comparing apples and organs. Surely he must understand the different between pre and post coordinate indexing. Each system in it's current form has strengths and weaknesses. Our job is to teach people how to use each tool, and to guide them to the best sources for their search. But while precoordinated indexing won't change much in the future, post is growing by leaps and bounds each year. Picking apart the problems with Google is easy. Looking at how far Google has come in just a few years should be shocking, and thinking about where they will be in 5 or ten years should be frightening. No doubt they have dozens of brilliant minds finding solutions to each and every problem libraries love to waggle their fingers at. While we wrestle with our budgets, they hire 10 new genius level employees a day.


Google and all the other technologies out there are in their "TR-1" stage right now. Spreading FUD about beta level technologies in their infancy doesn't elevate libraries or librarians, it makes us look even more antiquated than we're all ready perceived (Go ahead, ask any teenager). Like the radio manufacturers from the article, we've "built our fortunes" and many of us don't see the value in many new technologies because they are currently inferior. Our goals should be to elevate our position without trying to denigrate our "competition." We must show the world what we can do, and how we work with technology. All these technologies are here to stay, and if we want the same to be said for libraries, we need to work harder to move our selves up, without putting others down.


The common perception that newer/faster/cheaper is always better is what will drive the move to a digital world. Storing knowledge in traditional printed books will probably still have a place, but I am convinced within a decade we will have the tools that will allow the majority of people that can afford it, and the desire, the ability to buy, read, and store all the books they want, without paper. Librarians are terrible marketers, and we've failed miserably trying to maintain an image of relevance. It may be print really is a superior format for many things, but we'll never be able to convince enough people to make a lasting impression. How can we if the new devices out perform print for most peoples needs?


Imagine a book sized device that allows you to store 1,000 books. You can flip pages easily, the screen is crisp, well lit, and fully adjustable. It will read out loud to you. You can click on any word and be brought to a Wikipedia entry. If you want, it will let you check your email, and browse the web.


So now is your chance to poke holes in my dream. First, think about where you think we'll be in 10 years, and then tell me I'm wrong. Think about where computers, Google and Ebooks will be. Tell me people will always prefer print. Tell me it's more stable, easier to store, lasts for centuries and is easier to handle. Tell me DRM and copyright issues will kill many new devices usefulness. Tell me people don't learn as well from electronics as they do from print. On second thought, don't tell me all that, I've been hearing it for years.


Tell me what you're going to do that will change not just my mind, but the minds of the people we are trying to serve. Tell me how you'll convince the people that we'll need to support libraries in 10 years that we're worth it. Tell me how I can convince my 13 year old nieces that when they're in college they'll need librarians to help them learn. Convince me all these new tools are not replacing the library for many people's daily information needs.

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Zero-sum?

Blake, I don't know if you'll see this since so many days have passed since the original post, but this is kind of a followup to the discussion on Walt at Random and on lbr yesterday and today:

Do you view this as a zero-sum game, where efforts placed toward building and enhancing digital services will inevitably subtract from the ongoing enhancement of print collections and offline service? Do you feel that the need for libraries to develop and improve digital services to be so pressing and immediate that we must start making choices between developing our digital/online programs and developing our print/analog/brick-and-mortar programs? Or are there strategies that we could be using to actually make the kind of progress we need to make on both fronts?

Thanks... I'd be interested to hear your POV on it.

Electronic Resources

Think the new Napster, or Yahoo Music Unlimited.These are subscription services that provide access to millions of songs.Once you end your subscription, you lose all your music.Now think electronic resources.Once you end your subscription to EBSCO for example, you lose all your articles.Forget the future. This is happening today.Something else for your audience to ponder.The original name for Google was BackRub.If you visit an original web page for BackRun circa 1997, you will see:"BackRub is a research project of the Digital Library Project in the Computer Science Department at Stanford University."Thus Google = digital library project.Read it and weep.Link to original BackRub page, thanks to Wayback Machine.

Re:Electronic Resources

Like I said "Tell me DRM and copyright issues will kill many new devices usefulness." I'm well aware there's far more to it than ending subscriptions. There's companies that go out of business, there's file formats, there's a myriad of issues that fall into the drm/legal area.It doesn't matter if we know about this, it doesn't matter if we care. Most people don't know, or if they did, they wouldn't care.

Stable?

I will give you almost all of your argument for the sake of argument, and because, unfortunately, I must agree with most of it.

But young sir, I will not give you this without an actual argument:

... With backups on tapes, optical media, flash media, and hard drives, our bytes are as safe as or more safe than paper ever was. Digital records are now as permanent as paper.

This overly simplistic claim does not amount in any sense to an argument. Will we someday have digital technologies that are as stable, or more so, than acid-fee paper or quality microfilm? Most probably. In ten years? I'm not counting on it. Please show me the research and I do mean real research, not something dreamed up by Kurzweil or one of his mystical minions.

LOCKSS has nothing to do with stability, only with (possible) access through widespread distribution.

Re:Stable?

Pardon my ignorance, but I'm not familiar with the term "LOCKSS". Will someone enlighten me please? --D

LOCKSs

Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe

don't let the talk at their site fool you regarding future access. It only spreads multiple copies around so that in theory access is provided. But how does it solve the issue of actually using a copy of something whose format is no longer supported or has evolved so far that it is no longer able to be read?

Re:Stable?

Aha, very good. I have nothing to back up my crazy idea at this point. Other than what I've already said. We already have terabytes and terabytes and terabytes of data, people will find ways to preserve it, and move it forward into new formats. Or at least I think they will. If not, my hair brained scheme falls to pieces.I think we already have digital technologies that are as stable, or more so, than acid-fee paper or quality microfilm. Things now are relatively safe, backups, redundancy and all that. I cite LOCKSS not really as a particular solution, just as one way we make things safe now, as stable, or more so, than acid-fee paper or quality microfilm. I'm not talking about the CDs I burn, but the fact that I have 20 CDs of the same thing, and it's on 2 different servers, and it's on 2 other computers. The format is something I can move forward with when things change.Good to call me on this one though, this and the copyright/legal/DRM stuff are the Achilles heal.

Re:LOCKSs

I think there are some formats (PDF, Text, XML) that have such a HUGE installed base that people have no choice but find ways to support them. It's not like 20 years ago when there was a smaller number of items stored in a larger number of formats.(again, no research to back me up on this)

Triangles, spheres and Copyright...

I don't remember where I picked this up, but one of the big societal trends that is creeping up on us is the demise of the triangle, and the rise of the sphere. Most organizations are based on a 19th century industrial model, with someone at the top of the triangle and a few more on the next rung down, etc etc finally to the bottom of the triangle. The new organizations are truly democratic, with everone basically equal, relating to each other with out a hierarchy.


So a good example of the triangle is a library - a building that has lots of books and some expert educators who bring literacy to the masses. And with the web you have a sphere - there are no gatekeepers, barriers, etc, as long as you can find it you can read it. Note that unlike a lot of other types of triangular organizations librarians have been trying to promote the sphere goals (freedom, etc) within the construct of a trianglular world. A perfect example of this is copyright - Libraries provied access to expensive materials to anyone who wanted them, dealing with the bureaucracy while patrons could access anything the library owned.

Copyright and DRM are really the key and honestly I can se a lot of crappy devices making it to market over the next 10 years that are relatively inexpensive but have horrendous DRM problems. For exmaple, you can have 1000 items on your reader but you have to pay a daily fee to keep them other wise they delete themselves. The creators can simply access your device and delete things without asking you (note: this is already happening with TiVO). Information is rented, not purchased or free. And in a world filled with rental information, I can definitely see a role for libraries.

Will There Still Be Libraries (and print)

Nicely written essay Blake. There's no question that today's web technologies are going to grow more advanced - and there will no doubt be new disruptive technologies coming along that will take what we see on the Internet now to new levels - that perhaps we cannot even imagine right now. But I would just make two points (maybe three) in support of why libraries will still be around in the long run. One perspective you do not consider is the library as place - as a part of the social fabric of its community. Despite access to electronic information libraries - as place - continue to be valued and used (we continue to hear and see reports of libraries that are busy, busy, busy). I also believe that even if digital comes to be the dominant media there is always a segment that prefers retro technology. Consider that vinyl LPs are much sought after, along with turntables, by a significant population among the under 30 crowd. They are desired for their sound quality and tactile sensation. I think you can make a similar case for books in a highly digitized future. And let's not forget the libraries of educational institution. Unless we can truly digitize everything already in local collections it seems there will continue to be a need to house and preserve valuable print resources for future researchers. Will we still need librarians. I think so but there's no question we'll need to evolve and develop new ways of helping user communities be efficient at locating needed information.

Typical class chauvinism

Blake states "Storing knowledge in traditional printed books will probably still have a place, but I am convinced within a decade we will have the tools that will allow the majority of people that can afford it, and the desire, the ability to buy, read, and store all the books they want, without paper. "I repeat, "...that can afford it..."These arguments about the virtues of the electronic media as opposed to the print are valid. However, the argument also hinges on the preconception that any person who would want to will be able to buy such equipment as to be able to download, surf, etc. individually. THIS IS A FALSE PREMISE. It is based upon a middle-class understanding of America, valid for many but not for all. If society were to take the road seen in this vision, there will be a relatively "informed" class of elites and a relatively "uninformed" class of rabble. These issues will further divide our country that already suffers deep misunderstandings across racial and ethnic lines.Rejoin until you are blue in the face about how manufacturing economics and scale will drive down the cost of technology to the point where it is affordable for all. I ask you to leave behind the meta-world we have created through the idolatry of the keyboard and the glowing screen. Take a walk downtown in any major city (or across the railroad tracks in a smaller town, or deep into rural America) you will see with your own eyes that people are being left behind because they cannot afford computers and internet access, let alone e-book readers and downloaded copies of works.The public library system is vital to the United States. Without the kind of free access to information guaranteed through print libraries, our society cannot maintain its veneer of being egalitarian. If "information access," whether defined through printed materials or electronic media, is only accessible to those who can pay, a great ideal has been lost. We may be able to pay, but what of our fellow countrymen who cannot? Should we "...let them eat cake?" The damage done to society by one group suffering deprivation of information can be just as great as any caused by deprivation of material goods. We (as in EVERYONE, especially in our professional role as librarians) need to be information uniters instead of agents of division, and I am greatly concerned that information access is developing into one of the principal class dividers of our times.

big leap

I've said a number of times that On Demand will take away the need for libraries to have DVD collections. But I don't think that applies to books, at least not on the same timeline as DVDs. If we're talking centuries instead of decades then maybe.

Its one thing to have a television and a computer in your home. Its something else to say that every single person in that home will have a device advanced enough to make digital books a normal part of society. And for a change that substantial it would, I believe, have to be worldwide. Every person, every business, every school, every government, every *publisher* would have to be at the same line of advancement.

Now obviously there can be (has to be) a tipping point where enough people are doing so it automatically forces everyone to do it but how long before we get there?

As for libraries? I'm starting to get peeved with my profession. For the last 100 years we've let ourselves become trivia kings but aside from just offering a wide selection of reading material, fiction and nonfiction, our primary goal should be offering local information both current and historical. Its not the most glamorous part of the job but it is the most challenging and time consuming. Because of that I think we constantly put it on the backburner. Regardless, it has nothing to do with Google unless we put it up there for Google to search. If libraries disappear it won't be because of the Internet it will because we lost sight of our own purpose.

Re:Triangles, spheres and Copyright...

Very interesting. I hadn't thought about the role for libraries becoming more important because of our world filled with rental information.I guess this would require fair use, which publishers want to do away with.

Re:Will There Still Be Libraries (and print)

1. the library as place: Ah yes, I didn't think about that in this one did I? Very good point.2. retro technology: Segment, key word there I think is segment. How big, and will they have any influence over the markets that create and control? I have no doubt there will always be retro technology fans. LPs are a perfect example.Good points thanks!

Re:Typical class chauvinism

I'll repeat it to, "...that can afford it..."How you got "any person who would want to will be able" to afford from "the majority of people that can afford it, and the desire, the ability" is beyond me. Maybe I needed to make it more clear that I already get it, I'm not putting forth your premise, and that sentance should've, thought apparently didn't, make that clear.Like I said: Convince me all these new tools are not replacing the library for many people's daily information needs. Maybe you needed to read between the lines, or maybe I needed to be more clear, but I already know very well there's millions of people who can't afford food, let alone a new computer.

Re:big leap

I agree with you on that tipping point, I just thing we're much closer than you do I guess. I see it as being a small leap, coming soon for those who want it, and within 10 years for those who don't want it now, but will be able to afford it.I like the idea of offering local information both current and historical. It seems like that is a good partnership idea for publics and academics, and a good marketing opportunity for all."If libraries disappear it won't be because of the Internet it will because we lost sight of our own purpose."EXACTLY. This, I hope, is one key point that anyone should take away from this discussion.Like I said:Librarians are terrible marketers, and we've failed miserably trying to maintain an image of relevance. It may be print really is a superior format for many things, but we'll never be able to convince enough people to make a lasting impression. How can we if the new devices out perform print for most peoples needs?

Re:Electronic Resources

Many libraries now pay extra for their electronic resources so that they "own" the databases in question, meaning that the problem of losing all of your digital content once you can no longer afford the access fee is becoming less and less of an issue these days. It's more expensive that way (EEBO, for instance, costs something like $500,000 to own, plus an annual "maintenance" charge in lieu of a subscription), but it's yours even if your e-resources budget gets slashed for the next fiscal year.

Re:big leap

By focusing on the format of the information instead of the information itself we are losing sight of our relevance. That doesn't mean we can't debate the issue of the death of books (I think you have an optimistic view of the rest of the world's ability to play). But how it relates to who we are and what we do, there should be no significant change.

Re:Will There Still Be Libraries (and print)

And having gone to the bank this morning, it doesn't appear that ATMs and online banking have put an end to bank branches with people in them. There are times when I'd rather deal with a real live person than wade through voicemail menus or hard to navigate web sites. In the future I think there will still be times when people want personalized service and attention - and librarians need to capitalize on that.

Re:Typical class chauvinism

I think the issue here is that the cost of such technology, and the usefulness, needs to drop well below that of a functioning computer and internet service, and into the realm of the cell phone and VCR. When that happens, electronic access to books will become available and useful to the financially disadvantaged (as long as they can be put on lay-away).

Re:Typical class chauvinism

Actually Jessamyn had a good link on that...

Shock: libraries bypassed by new media

Thank you Blake: excellent piece, and very amusing to this non-librarian IT guy from an Academic library. I really ought not to respond, because its too easy to find out *which* library, and that may cause embarrassment, but ...For a thousand years (or more) librarians have been in charge, custodians of recorded information and developers of arcane and inscrutable ways of doling it out. Along comes the internet, then the web, then Google (or Amazooglebay as I heard the other day), and suddenly -- shock! -- others have taken the information and are doling it out in new ways, online. So librarians are now inventing nice warm fuzzy ideas about "library as place" and "cultural icon" and so forth -- these from the same people who brought you "shush".There's nothing wrong with reinventing libraries as nice places to be and to socialise in and so forth. At my own institution, we're just now going through a "facilities" review, and looking at this very thing, with ideas for "collaborative learning areas" and comfy sofas and maybe even a coffee shop. Interstingly, none of these ideas has anything to do with information provision. (We've discussed that too, but only as a set of trends that inform the discussion. Point is, I think, that librarians are in a panic and looking for relevance, and if that requires allowing food and drink IN THE LIBRARY, well ... a few people may need to be quietly retired to make THAT happen, but ...Meanwhile, our "hard core" librarians are still discussing the merits of different versions of Dewey, and whether we should index MeSH along with LCSH. They are so out of touch with users and user needs and the digital tidal wave that rational argument is impossible. (At least we no longer have the "serial" v. "journal" argument, which raged here for some time. We opted for "journal", but there are still mutterings from time to time.)Part of the problem is with age. (I'm 53, so don't get mad -- I'm also a boomer.) Too many of our staff were already set when the web arrived, and although they have sort of embraced it and sort of find it OK, I can tell they really don't get it, and some would prefer it if it had never happened.I keep hoping that a younger, net-savvy generation of funky, tuned-in 'brarians will come along and change all that, but ... still waiting.Meanwhile, I already have Blake's handy device with 1000 books on it. It also has lots of music, my entire photo collection, stuff I'm writing, and heaps of tools. It is of course a notebook PC. Not quite as portable as I'd like, but they get lighter and neater every year. And cheaper.Love it or loathe it, the digital era is here. Embrace it or wither.

Re:Shock: libraries bypassed by new media

Can't argue with too much of what you say but: "So librarians are now inventing nice warm fuzzy ideas about "library as place" and "cultural icon" and so forth -- these from the same people who brought you "shush"."

Just so you know, we've always had 'library as place' and we use 'shush' so that everyone can use and enjoy said place. That's always been part of the deal. What's changed is yes, coffee, but also things like wireless and a lot more programming, a different kind of information.

Amazooglebay... that's a keeper.

Re:Typical class chauvinism

but as long as there are people who can't afford access to digital information, or who don't find it usable for whatever reason, print still has to be around. i wish your article had emphasized that point a bit more.

It has more to do with content than the package

I think that the future of books is going to be wide and varied, depending on the nature of the content within the book.For instance, academic content has already largely migrated to the journal, and these are undoubtedly bound for a nearly exclusive digital future. Their very nature begs for indexing, cross-linking, etc. and their use is nearly always within an environment where technology is rampant.Pop culture content (best sellers, etc.) is going to be a mixed bag. Certainly, publishers will gladly produce digital versions of these works to be read on tomorrows high-end portable electronics, so long as there is sufficient DRM to prevent or dissuade pirating. However, they will want to cater to as broad a market as possible, so print versions will also be available, if only for the older folks (who will be living longer, mind you).Specialized content, such as children's books, illustrated poetry books, etc., will be very very slow to migrate to digital format for several reasons. Illustrated content does not translate nearly as well to the confines of portable electronics as straight text. The proportions of illustrations to text simply do not scale properly. Also, there are deep-rooted cultural influences at work here. Reading to a child from a large, richly illustrated book is not the same as scrolling through pages on a palm-sized device. And noone is going to let their toddlers get their hands on their portable readers.Certainly, the proportion of digital content in libraries is going to grow steadily and unbounded, but that has more to do with the unbounded nature of digital content than on the notion that more traditional content will cease to exist.

Re:Typical class chauvinism

Yes, cost won't be an issue for many people, as long as the quality is there, and then usually, the cost drops so many more can afford it. It hits a tipping point at some point, so so the theory goes.

Re:It has more to do with content than the package

Interesting points, I hadn't even thought about content.I'd think children's books are actuall the perfect market for a good (color) ebook reader. In one small device, that lights itself, you can have all your kids books. So when they want another book at night (and another, and another, ooooh just one more) you'll have them all there, and you won't even need to turn on the lights. When you're done, you put it up on a HIGH shelf!

Re:Shock: libraries bypassed by new media

I think "library as place" and "cultural icon" and so forth are one of the keys to keeping us relevant. I'm not sure how those will play out, and how we use them though.I really think it's good and librarians SHOULD BE in a panic and looking for relevance. More than a few people need to be quietly retired for many reasons (present company excluded) :-)Interesting point about the "hardcore" folks. If we can find the ones that are both hard core for geeky librarian stuff, and hard core for the users, I think they'd be the key.

Where's the READER?

I buy your reasoning. But I keep looking for this great reader device. Where is it? I want something about the size of a trade paperback not a tiny PDA screen. When I find it I'm on board. Oh but you know what's good about library books, audios, CDs,videos and DVDs . . . FREE!

Re:Will There Still Be Libraries (and print)

Thanks for this, Steven J. Libraries, if they want to stay vital and germane, can't be just about content. They are about community. I've been having video/discussion programs the past two years, and they've been suprisingly successful. People look forward to coming every week, seeing a good documentary, having an expert to lead discussion, and having time to visit and connect before and after the program. People beg me to do more of these. Our adult book clubs are also successful for the same reason.

We have parents who come in with their toddlers so they can get out of the house, meet other parents and introduce their children to storytelling and other kids. (I just had a look at Tumblebooks, and charming as they are, digital picture books without a friendly face telling them, will never replace storyhour.

We have a group of retirees, who I call the Barbershop Guys, who come in, read the paper, and shoot the breeze until we tell them hush

.
Local history? Genealogy? Many of the people who do genealogy don't just want information--they want to make a connection with the past. Sure, it's great when we can send off an obituary to someone unable to make a trip to the library, but I work with people who want to see where their great grandpappy lived and died.

I had a letter to the editor published last week, which serves as a bit of foil to your root post here. It's been nice to have patrons offer me their appreciation for expressing that libraries as place are valued and valuable.

Re:Typical class chauvinism

Although the $100 laptop will not assist anyone who is poor and in a developed country, the program is only for Majority World residents.

Re:Zero-sum?

Thanks for the links, hadn't caught all those links."Do you view this as a zero-sum game, where efforts placed toward building and enhancing digital services will inevitably subtract from the ongoing enhancement of print collections and offline service?"Well, good question. I don't know that I think it's a zero sum game in that I think the 2 can co-exist. I guess I'm thinking in terms of majority, the majority of people who can will. I also think that digital will subtract from print for money and other reasons."Do you feel that the need for libraries to develop and improve digital services to be so pressing and immediate that we must start making choices between developing our digital/online programs and developing our print/analog/brick-and-mortar programs?"Well... No. BUT. "start making choices" is a key phrase. We should start thinking about how we should be making choices now, based on how we think people will be using our services in 1, 5 or 10 years. My experience has shown me there are FAR more librarians more worried about retiring in 5 years than they are these big decisions. Yes, nasty dig, I know, but I think that's a big part of the problem. Of course I'm assuming I'm right about the future."Or are there strategies that we could be using to actually make the kind of progress we need to make on both fronts?"I'm an idea guy, I raise questions and leave the answers to people smarter than me. :-)The one thing I think "we" (the entire profession) needs to do now is think about this stuff and discuss it, study it, poke at it with a stick. How we proceed from here depends largely on how each of us thinks this is all going to turn out.Good questions, thanks!

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