28 Jun 2019

WHY LIBRARIES SHOULD PROVIDE MORE BOOKS

           



                                                                                                                         



WHY  LIBRARIES SHOULD PROVIDE MORE BOOKS RATHER THAN INVESTING IN NEW TECHNOLOGY.




Prepared for
Charlie Robinson, Director

Baltimore County Public Library
9509 Harford Rd
Parkville, MD 21234, United States


By
Jeffery Hizwan
Librarian

Baltimore County Public Library





INTRODUCTION
This report derives in response to the current trend of libraries that are actively investing in digital content. Written in the first instance to justify why libraries should invest more on books rather than digital content, it took account of the digital library developments, successes, needs, and challenges perceived by libraries. The terms of digital libraries use in this report is defining the new technology gathering momentum in publication namely e-books and e-journals.

The digital library extends the breadth and scale of scholarly and cultural evidence and supports innovative research and lifelong learning. To do this, it mediates between diverse and distributed information re- sources on the one hand and a changing range of user communities on the other. In this capacity, it establishes “a digital library service environment” that is, a networked online information space in which users can discover, locate, acquire access to and, increasingly, use information. Although access paths will vary depending on the resource in question, the digital library service environment makes no distinctions among information formats. Books, journals, paper-based archives, video, film, and sound recordings are as visible in the digital library service environment as are online catalogs, finding aids, abstracting and indexing services, e-journal and e-print services, digitized collections, geographic information systems, Internet resources, and other “electronic” holdings.

The digital library service environment is not simply about access to, and use of, information. It also supports the full range of administrative, business, and curatorial functions required by the library to manage, ad- minister, monitor engagement with, and ensure fair use of its collections whether in digital or non-digital formats, whether located locally or off site. The digital library service environment integrates (and interfaces with) in- formation repositories that are characterized by open-access shelving, high- density book stores, and availability via interlibrary loan, and include data services and digital archival repositories. It manages information about collections and items within collections often throughout their entire life cycle. It incorporates patron, lending, and other databases, and integrates appropriate procedures for user registration, authentication, authorization, and fee-transaction processing. The digital library service environment may also evolve into a networked learning space, providing access to, and a curatorial home for, distance and lifelong learning materials. The digital library service environment is, in sum, an electronic information space that supports very different views and very different uses of the library. This is why libraries should provide more books rather than investing in new technology namely digital library.

After a brief summary of some key findings related to the digital library-definitions of the digital library are possibly premature and will underrepresent the extent to which its activities are shaped by local institutional, legal, and business imperatives, this report will review five reason why libraries should provide more books rather than invest in new technology such as e-books and e-journals or by definition the digital library.


PHYSICAL BOOKS ARE MORE PREFERRED BY READERS
There are many factors to consider when discussing the matter of eBooks vs. printed books, but ultimately, it boils down to the reader’s preference. Avid fans of printed books claim that there is still nothing like the smell of paper and the rustle of the pages as the reader flips gently through the book with their fingers. There is something intimately rustic about the entire experience, they claim, and it is one that cannot be derived from the cold, electronic eBooks version.

On the other hand, those who prefer the eBooks often say that the device takes a whole lot of weight from their shoulders – literally. Packing for trips is bad enough as it is, but it becomes doubly so when confronted with the task of choosing which book to bring. With the eBooks, however, a reader can take hundreds of books with them on the journey, and only take up a few square inches in their carry-on bag but they also consider to make sure the device is fully charged or they will end up with nothing more than a useless device.

Apart from these physical considerations, however, studies have shown that when it comes to reading comprehension, printed books are still a better choice. One such study was recently conducted by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The study found that literacy building in children is more effective with a printed book than with an eBook because of the centralized focus on the story and the opportunities for interaction between the child and the parent reading the book with the child. While eBooks also deliver the story, and encourage children to participate with interactive add-ons, there is no conversation and nothing to encourage the child to verbalize or explore using language. In fact, the research concluded that sometimes “click-through” added features can actually detract from the reading experience because of all the interruptions.

Of course, for other people – especially adults, who are more able to comprehend the overall story or meaning in the text – these interactive features such as linking, bookmarking, highlighting, and others provide a huge benefit and meet many of their needs. By and large, however, some devices tend to overdo it, and so end up creating more distractions than necessary.


ARCHITECTURAL AND SYSTEM CHALLENGES
In keeping and maintaining digital books like eBooks and eJournals, a very complex and high tech infrastructure of digital library is needed. The digital library typically relies on a narrow base of appropriately skilled professionals to keep abreast of the rapid pace of technical change while maintaining, indeed extending, robust and fully operational online services and collection. In both respects, it is stretched beyond capacity with evident deleterious effect. Lacking the resources to develop core systems components (e.g., search and retrieval tools, user interfaces and user profiling services, user authentication and authorization services) that work across individual collections and services, the digital library adopts a tendency toward a more ad hoc approach that meets the most pressing demands involving development work. Although viable in the short term, the strategy threatens severely to undermine a position over which the library exerts only a tenuous hold-that of the trusted provider of high- quality information services. Where pure research and development activities are concerned, the rate and pace of technical change diminishes the time between the identification of a potentially valuable new technology and its deployment in a digital library service environment while the risks and costs associated with any decision to deploy a new technology remain stable or increase. Accordingly, libraries are investing in more technologies, more often, and with less information than at any time in the past.


THE COST OF DIGITAL LIBRARY
A common assumption among technology reporters about the costs of "digital libraries" is that digital is cheaper than paper. This contention is far from established in fact or in practice. Although many libraries project savings, especially when substitution strategies are used which replace selected serials titles with document delivery services, the cost/benefit analysis of making this switch remains unclear. In some cases, the switch to electronic serials may save the library money by offsetting the cost to users who must pick up the charge for document delivery.

When considering the economics of digital libraries, it can be tempting to focus on financial factors that are directly related to digital library services, for example the price of resources and infrastructure. It is important, however, to be aware of other economic factors. These include the cost of downloading bandwidth-hungry images and time spent filtering information in an environment where the signal-to-noise ratio is minuscule. While the authors acknowledge the importance of these factors it was beyond the scope of this project to determine their economic impact.

Furthermore, the costs of "being digital" are substantive ones. Many libraries now devote significant resources for hardware and software infrastructure. These expenses will increase-new hardware will be required, more licenses to software, increased infrastructure administration and training. And these costs are borne by libraries who only be acquiring digital materials and have limited electronic services. Those institutions that aspire to the development of digital collections and services can expect all of the above plus extensive design, digitization, and implementation costs.

COPYRIGHT AND LICENSING
If libraries do begin to systematically collect digital information on a larger scale, the provision of effective access could be questionable. In fact, copyright could end up preventing libraries from providing open access to the digital information they collect. Questions of copyright must be managed so that digital information can be created and distributed throughout "digital libraries" in a manner that is equitable for both information producers and information consumers. Copyright could become an insurmountable barrier to the development of digital collections.

There are indications that content providers unhappy with the protections afforded them under copyright law, will turn to contract law and licensing for protection. Libraries are already experiencing the administrative burden of managing site licenses for electronic information such as CD-ROMs and data files. Licensing provides content providers with a stronger mechanism to control the transmission and use of information. This has the effect of moving information from a realm where ideas are allowed to flow in the public domain, to one where this flow is controlled by the provider.


LONG-TERM ACCESS TO DIGITAL INFORMATION
The persistence of digital information remains an essential challenge for digital libraries. A few are poised to develop limited archival repositories. Their progress may rely on the emergence of two elements that are currently absent.

First, there is no widespread agreement about the minimum functional requirements of a digital archival repository. Such agreement is essential. Without defining what maintenance entails (and thus the requirements of the repository), libraries cannot tell suppliers of digital content what is needed to preserve the information. The suppliers need to agree on the requirements of a repository to satisfy any demand that libraries may make with regard to that content’s persistence. Finally, for emerging repositories to be trusted, whether as suppliers or consumers of digital content, they require a blueprint for the services they need to offer and a benchmark against which their services can be measured and validated.

A second element that is absent from the digital preservation arena is a more realistic understanding of the value of digital information. The costs of maintaining digital information over time are unknown but undoubtedly high. The costs of information loss are likewise unknown, but the potential costs must be considered. For example, a drug company maintains data generated in the development of a new product for as long as those data have value to the company. Such data might be kept as evidence in the case of legal action; the costs of not preserving the data could be ruinous. In this context, preservation may be expensive but less so than the alternative.

It would be difficult for libraries to make similar assessments, given their overwhelming focus on commercially produced scholarly materials (e.g., journals and reference services). Moreover, because of the number of subscriptions they hold, it would be unlikely that any single library or library consortium could take responsibility for preserving such content over the longer term, nor does long-term preservation motivate the commercial supplier. And the commercial supplier’s understanding of “longer term” will understandably be at variance with that of the library.

CONCLUSIONS

Digital information is, and will be, treated differently than paper-based information. It is likely that in the near future, the terms of accessibility and the conditions for management and collection of electronic information will not be determined by the library profession within the context of traditional library services, but rather by information professionals working to maximize return on a corporate information resource.

In the view of some librarians, a "digital library" should do all the things that traditional libraries have done for hundreds of years, and play the same essential role in society that libraries have always played. Physical books are important to keep the status of libraries as the keeper of the books. And to ensure the conservation of this occurs, the library must ensure that the book stocks is always updated and supplemented from time to time. And for this, libraries need to rethink their acquisitions strategy. Public libraries risk missing the opportunities of an important trend: the explosion of published books.  Back in 1950, there were just 11,022 titles published.  In 2010, 328,259 titles were brought to market (see Appendix 1). By 2010, however, the situation had dramatically changed.  In 2010, there were over 300,000 titles published, but the average library could buy only 21,000 of them.

Public libraries are still pursuing an acquisitions philosophy that is guided by a reality from the 1950’s. When libraries could buy everything, individual libraries could curate the entire opus of the publishing industry and help consumers get what they wanted.  The need for libraries to discover new books was minimal, because everyone knew what the new books were, and publications like The Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly could review most of the important books. The bigger issue was access.

The benefit of this strategy is that it helped build loyalty to libraries among adult readers.  The problem is that by focusing on books that patrons already wanted, libraries de-emphasized their important role in the discovery of new books and more importantly the physical books.
Other than that libraries should cooperate to discover great physical books too; as an example, libraries should never underestimate the potential of Indie books.

Bowker estimates that over 235,000 books were self-published in 2012 alone.  This number is growing quickly and even in print alone, self-published books accounted for 43% of the total publishing output in 2011.

Those numbers are astonishing (harken back to the 11,000 books published in 1950), and their magnitude explains why physical book users have difficulty finding the next book to reads.  There are a few sites like Goodreads and Indie Reader that offer alternatives to the untrustworthy online review, but for the ordinary reader, there is no single source available to sort the diamonds from the coal.

None of this requires more work than libraries do today.  Librarians routinely read books just for the purpose of deciding whether to recommend them to patrons.  But the process is ad hoc: it’s done on a library-by-library or system-by-system basis.  There is no coordination.  But such coordination would not be difficult to arrange, nor would it require a mandate or any significant funding.  It would just require a website with a list of new titles and links accessible only to real people working in real libraries.

The benefits of cooperating to evaluate a meaningful portion of the opus of American publishing would be tremendous.  Libraries are the most trusted source of book recommendations, as they have no financial interest in the result of the recommendation.   If libraries start discovering new authors, publishers will pay much keener attention to them.  And this will attract more readers to visit and read book at library.







ATTACHMENT

REFERENCES
Chowdhury, G., & Chowdhury, S. (2002). Introduction to digital libraries. Facet publishing.

Greenstein, D. (2000). Digital libraries and their challenges. Library trends,49(2), 290-303.

Harrison, B. L. (2000). E-books and the future of reading. Computer Graphics and Applications, IEEE, 20(3), 32-39.

Hillesund, T. (2001). Will E-books change the world? First Monday, 6(10).

Soules, A. (2009). The shifting landscape of e-books. New Library World,110(1/2), 7-21.

Sinanidou, M. G. (2010). Digital Libraries and Web Linking. E-Publishing and Digital Libraries: Legal and Organizational Issues: Legal and Organizational Issues, 273.




APPENDIX 1


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