Library/Internet debate and Scrolling Forward

Submitted by Bibliofuture on Wed, 05/24/2006 - 16:41

The discussion of the book Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age is going to be very interesting. Recently Blake posted an article called 10 Reasons Why The Web Is Almost A Substitute For Libraries which was a counter piece to an older article called 10 Reasons Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library. Scrolling Forward deals with this debate. Chapter 7 of the book is titled Libraries and the Anxiety of Order. We will cover this entire chapter later but I want to give a few tidbits from the chapter to demonstrate why this is an excellent book to discuss.

Here is one paragraph from Chapter 7:
Of course it isn't just stores or shopping malls that need to be constantly maintained. Everything does. Gardens go to seed, bridges fall down, clothes become frayed and stained, The same is true for documents. Without proper care they decay, lose their intelligility and intellectual currency, and become inaccessible. And this isn't just true of paper documents. We are quickly discovering that digital materials, too, need to be properly tended. Web pages disappear and links break. Digital media - floppy disks, CD-ROMs, and so on - degrade after a matter of years, and the files stored on them have to be copied to new media if they are to be preserved.
Later in the chapter the author provides the opening paragraph from a 1909 Library Bureau Catalog. Library Bureau was the company founded by Dewey to sell library supplies. The paragraph reads:
The development of library science during the last quarter century has made it evident that a library in the true sense is not merely a certain number of books, but rather a collection of books so arranged that they may be conveniently used for reading or reference. Five thousand well-choosen volumes classified and administered according to modern methods may better deserve the name of library than four times the number carelessly or erratically arranged, even though the larger collection might contain every volume to be found in the smaller group.

I think these paragraphs are enlightening in regards to the discussion of the two articles discussing why or why not the web may be a substitute for the library. Chapter 7 in it's entirety is wrestling with this debate.
If you would like to join in the discussion all you need to do is obtain a copy of the book Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age by David Levy. You then are welcome to post replies to any of the LBC posts. If you would like to create your own post on any aspect of the book you choose just submit it as a story to LISNEWS and one of the LISNEWS authors will approve your posting. Note: If you don't have access to the book your are still welcome to comment in the discussion. This is an open forum.