Technovandals and the Future of Libraries

There are discussions at all levels of government about the future of libraries. The federal government is proceeding with plans for the I-WAY (otherwise known as the National Information Superhighway), blithely assuming that it will, at a time and cost and in a manner unknown, supersede most if not all library services and programs. It is taken for granted that the texts of articles and books will be available on the I-WAY at some point in the not-too-distant future. The eerie thing about these discussions is the absence of practical solutions to some problems (copyright and intellectual freedom chief among them) and the assumption that some very weighty practical and technical problems will be solved miraculously by the march of technology. At a more mundane level, universities, municipalities, and school districts are wrestling with the increasing costs of, and the diminishing resources available to, the libraries for which they are responsible.

The multiyear financial squeeze on public institutions imposed by the retrograde public policy of the last 20 years has imposed tremendous burdens on school, public, and academic libraries. To take but one example of many, one of the effects of the "Tax Revolt" in California has been that the richest state of the richest nation on earth ranks 50th out of the 50 states in the proportion of librarians to students in the public schools. Viewed superficially, this may seem regrettable...

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