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?


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.

Anonymous said...

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