Reflections on Week 8

Like all of you, I’m sure, I’ve used digital archives and libraries often for research.  It’s convenient and amazing, and I certainly can’t wait to see what the future brings.  Michael Jon Jensen brought up a good point, though, when he said “my fundamental error was in thinking that technology was the driver, rather than the human culture using the new technologies,” in describing why everyone wasn’t walking around with e-books in 2000.  People still love books, and many people still prefer the old traditional methods of research.  With that said, I have to admit that no matter how easy a digital library is, I still much prefer going to the physical library when practically possible.  It’s more invigorating and feels much more rewarding- especially when I’m the only one in the stacks, since it feels like I found some long-lost information.

Echoing what some of the other authors said, though, I also have to agree that libraries must adapt and change in the 21st Century.  The cell-phone dependent audience must be understood if traditional libraries are to survive, even when not in a traditional form. 

Yet, many new digital libraries are for-profit enterprises, and like the interviewee in the Cat Kong vs. Googzilla article, I have some worries.  A site like the National Archives one presented as a case study is a good source, and we know its motives.  Like other public institutions, its goal is to present information to the public for knowledge’s sake.  On the other hand, though, sites like Google Books and ancestry.com have wonderful sources, but their motives are different.  The primary goal of those sites is to make a profit.  What does that mean for the future of digital libraries?  For-profit sites still have good material, but is it ethical for any library, public or private, to charge for access?  Doesn’t that go against the traditrional mission statement of libraries?  Of course, digital libraries aren’t traditional.

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