Monday, November 29, 2010

University Libraries Told to Encourage Digital Resources

University librarians have been told that they must change the behaviour of academics to "stop them craving books" as libraries shift their focus to digital resources.

The call was made at a debate about the future of university libraries, hosted by Times Higher Education at the British Library last week.

Pretty typical story here; the comments are a good read. I particularly liked this part of one from kathz:

Digital resources, when they work, are a great complement to books and manuscripts. It's particularly good that they can, if not hidden behind a paywall, be accessed by scholars and readers beyond the academy. But the paraphernalia required to access them is not cheap. The digitisation of culture may, in this age of austerity, become yet another means by which learning is placed beyond the reach of the poor.

I'm particularly concerned that, in an era when public libraries are closing and access to universities is being restricted to the rich and those prepared to gamble on possible profits from their education, digitisation is being advanced as "democratic."

Access to digital resources is not universal. Not everyone has a computer - even some students cannot afford them - and the coming cuts will probably limit access to technology even further. If academics and universities have a responsibility to the wider community - and I believe they do - it is to make sure that learning and culture are, so far as possible, freely available so that intellectual enquiry can flourish at all levels of society. Old-fashioned libraries can achieve this in a way that digital libraries cannot.


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