An engaging study of research library prospects has been posted at ITHAKA S+R. It certainly prompts thinking and rethinking. The single is “Can’t Buy Us Love” by Rick Anderson.
Here are some of the FotB kind of comments: The binary of “print” and “on-line” resources sounded new to me. Another configuration would be display modes of “print” and “screen” and “physical” and “on-line” distribution utilities. The other binary of “commodity” and “non-commodity” delivery can also be opened to various reviews. The commodity/non-commodity distinction may not be airtight even after a further assumption that all documentary expression and transmission is a composite. A compelling example of commodification of digital resources is forensic examination of electronic literature. Another would be the commodification of ebooks by their reading device products. The non-commodity nature of print is quickly confirmed in library operation as works fluctuate in and out – and in again – of currency though fixed in content.
Another binary presented from library operations is “general” and “special” collections. These are perhaps even less airtight categories since the current movement toward cooperative “last copy” print repositories for general monographs and journals has quietly converted the remnant circulating collections to a new special collections status. Another important binary advanced by the study is prospects for collections and prospects for collection mediation. Perhaps neither existential role can be displaced.
With each of the binaries at work we should entertain their ambiguities and conflictions; that is we should move focus to the spaces between. A corollary then would not be projection of gradual shifts, but an investigation of the resilience of a system such as transmission of books. The resilience is confirmed in library history as episodic innovations of book transmission and unwary displacements of formats. Books bounce back and persist across an accumulation of delivery modes. Library mediation also features a history of resilience.
We sometimes vote on research agendas and best practices. There should be a vote for investigation of an ambiguous, conflicted and yet resilient hybrid future of the research library. Once upon a time persistent collection media outlasted the librarian, now the media are more mortal than the librarian. Perhaps we can mediate the prospects of book transmission and risks of displacements of knowledge as a research agenda. This could begin with an exposition of resilience science applied to library mediation and to all collection media acting as a transmission ecology.
“The average adult will spend more than five hours per day online and on non-voice mobile activities (read: texting, apps, games). That’s compared to an average four hours and 31 minutes each day of TV watching.” NPR on-line
This latest finding compares favorably with the twenty-four hours daily spent alive by most people. Whatever the trend lines there is increasing attention to the overall allocation of hours and recent research is now applied to an extension from days to come to enable sufficient growth options for screen delivery. If such proves practical personal preference for print and screen can then be accommodated together without artificial tether and correlation will enhance causality.
“And don’t tell me to use a Kindle. The other day, I finished reading Kafka’s “Castle,” which is more than I can say for Kafka, who didn’t even finish writing it. And unlike other novelists who abandon their books, Kafka not only didn’t complete the thing, he didn’t bother finishing his last sentence. When you’re reading “The Castle” on a Kindle, as I was, and you get to “She spoke with difficulty, it was hard to understand her, but what she said,” and there’s nothing else on your screen, you think there has been an electronic glitch. I need the security of the printed page.” Amy Wilentz