The Digital Movement is How Old?

With my hearing, a simple phone call is a challenge. That vile villain, The Hushed Tone, and his cohorts Fast Talking Boy and Mr. Accent rule this particular roost. So I’ve taken to the digital world with fervor. Emails in the stead of phone calls are the way I roll. This is far from the norm, though, and goes hand-in-hand with the spread of digital libraries that I feel is still in its infancy. Which is why I was so surprised to read, in a D-Lib article, that as long ago as the 1980s companies were spending half of their capital funds on telecommunications.It’s truly astounding that seeds planted 30 years ago are still sprigs, even more so if you think the seeds were really planted by the Department of Defense in the form of ARPANET back in the late 60s.

In some cases, digital tools have a firm foothold in libraries. For example the majority of card catalogs have been replaced by OPACs. But there’s still a lot of work to be done. I did a project for my Organization of  Information class on serials, magazines and journals for those of you that don’t speak librarianese. It seems that publishers are still trying to figure out how to best make money from the not-so-new electronic versions of their serials. Right now they sell licenses to access their databases of titles, which are hosted on the publishers’ servers and libraries don’t have the e-files stored onsite. This is fine in most cases but what happens when a library decides it doesn’t want a particular title? Well, they not only stop getting new issues but they also stop getting access to back issues. After all those months and years of paying for the title, in the end of the day they have literally nothing to show for it.

I’m sure this egregious error is being rectified by the introduction to new licensing schemes, but it just exemplifies the immaturity of the technological process. The technology, as I’ve said, is decades old. So it’s had the time to improve and mature, but the way in which said technologies are leveraged is quite immature.  And this is why it’s such an exciting time to be getting into the LIS field. In addition to the serial issue, there’s  Google Books, Project Gutenberg, DPLA, The Internet Archive..the list goes on. How best to use digital technologies are still being worked out and I Iook forward to playing a roll in that work.


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