Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Google-eyed over Google's digitization

Mark Herring, dean of libraries services at Winthrop University, wrote a short piece for the Chronicle's Mar. 11, 2005 Point of View column. [login required]

Best part, IMHO:
Digitization is big news; it's a good idea; and it's inevitable. But let's not get all goggle-eyed over Google right away. Here are five reasons not to tear up your library card quite yet.


Go Mark. I may have some additional ideas about things--but this is valuable dialogue nonetheless.

I'll second the idea that we live in an "AND" world: digitized books (eBooks) and printed books (pBooks) are both valuable formats for information consumers.

Yes, sometimes I snuggle up with my laptop, PDA, iPod. But often I cozy up with my hardback that I can dogear and scribble on. By the same token, when I look for that "Poor Yorick" quotation from Hamlet that CSI made reference to last night, a digitized version gets me there a heck of a lot faster.

And check out Herring's poster. Anyone like to comment?

13 comments:

George said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
George said...

Mr. Herring makes some good points in his poster, which helps demostrate how this is not an "either/or," but an "and" world. (Thanks again, Walt!)

I do believe that some of the points he raises are a little overheated. For example, in point number 3 of the poster, Mr. Herring says, "Amid all the great web-based information lurks a kook with a conspiracy theory, and a pornographer with a camera." This is every bit as true for libraries as well. The information in most libraries is better vetted than what you might find, say, on a blog. But there is plenty of chaff amid that wheat as well.

In point 8, Mr. Herring says, "To digitize even half a million volumes --- a modest library --- would cost about one billion dollars." This would work out to $2,000 per volume. I don't know the source of that estimate, but I know NetLibrary does the job for a lot less than $2,000 a volume. Also, every library does not have 500,000 unique titles. The cooperation libraries have built over the years should facilitate some sort of registry that would avoid duplicate digitization.

There is a middle path here. We as librarians should be celebrating the fact that information has suddenly become a recognized and valuable commodity. We should be leveraging our experience, our great track record of forming alliances and building community, and our knowledge of how people use information into a service that no one can live without.

We'll do that by celebrating information in all its varieties, not by running down the shortcomings of any format, print or electronic.

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