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Books, Libraries, Comuters and the Future

Oct - 29 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

The welcome message for the EMA conference was presented by F. William Chickering (Dean of University Libraries at Rider University). Dean Chickering talked about the future. He peppered us with quotes from foolish people of the past and present who thought that things like phones, cars, computers, radios and libraries would not be around today. He started with some quotes about what the future is – my favorite was by James Baldwin:

The future is like heaven, everyone exalts it, but no one wants to go there now.

Think of this next time you have resistance in your library to a new change. Think back to when we started using computers in libraries:

“It should be stamped out ‘…the computer is not for library use; that all the promises offered in its name are completely fraudulent; and that not only is it extremely expensive compared to other methods at this time, but that it will become increasingly expensive in the future; that it has been wrapped so completely in an aura of unreason that fine intelligences are completely uprooted when talking about it; that its use in a library weakens the library as a whole by draining off large sums of money for a small return; and that it should be stamped out.’
–Ellsworth Mason, “Along the Academic Way,” LJ, May 15, 1971″

This was just one of the many quotes shared with us about the future of libraries and computers.

Dean Chickering was a great speaker and his intro was so full of quotes and history that I was unable to keep up. The long and short of it is that libraries ain’t going away :) And while that is true – change is necessary in order to stay up to date. One example he gave us was a “did you mean” feature in our catalogs – he finds Google much more friendly in pointing out that he is a terrible speller than our OPACs are.

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