Monday, April 17, 2006
Whither Libraries? by Lancaster
F. Wilfrid Lancaster's "Whither Libraries? or, Wither Libraries" article tackles the issue of library technology at a point (1978) that he recognized as being a turning point in the debate between print based and non-print (electronic in this case) materials. Early in the article, he announces, "Whether we like it or not, society is evolving from one whose formal communication has, for centuries, been based almost exclusively on print on paper to one whose formal communication will be largely paperless (ie electronic)" (346). Focusing specifically on scholarly publishing in the sciences, Lancaster envisions a future that will have scientists submitting, reviewing and reading papers in an entirely electronic environment, and libraries offering access to the same material via electronic databases. Lancaster cites space concerns, production and handling costs and the time lag inherent in print publishing as motivations for a switch to electronic material, "by the year 2000, [or conceivably earlier]" (355). 2000 has come and gone: are Lancaster's predictions accurate? What, if anything, does Lancaster NOT take into account for the successful transfer to electronic publishing that could be an issue today? Lancaster closes his article by calling for more study on what libraries can do in the new electronic publishing world: what are some ways you have seen librarians adapt to the use of electronic sources?