Librarians Should Accept Fact That Most Books Aren’t Available In Digital Format

To the Editor:

While I appreciate the balance you attempted in your piece, “As Libraries Go Digital, Costs Remain Tangible” (The Chronicle, August 13), you really should have talked to faculty members as well. For us — especially in the humanities — library administrators seem to be living in their own world, and it’s a very different one from ours. There are lots of problems with the brave new digital world. Most books, especially foreign ones, aren’t available in digital format, and lots of “old” books aren’t either, despite Hathai and Google. In the humanities, old doesn’t necessarily mean “out-of-date.” Thus, it’s not simply an issue of “choosing” to read books in paper format; often it’s the only one available, and it complicates our lives to wait for books from remote storage or interlibrary loan when a book could (and should) be available on the shelf.

Don’t take me for one of those technology haters; I’m not. I work on a fully digital journal. I will cry for joy when all books are available as PDFs or some other annotatable form. But that’s still a long way off, and librarians need to get with that picture rather than following the group-think about the future of libraries.

Don Fader
Associate Professor and Area Coordinator of Musicology
Reviews Editor, Journal of Seventeenth-Century Music
School of Music
University of Alabama

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