Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Role of Libraries in the Technological Age

I recently attended a presentation by Irving Wladawsky-Berger, Chairman Emeritus of the IBM Academy of Technology and Visiting Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT. Throughout his long and distinguished career, he has focused on how information technology is helping transform the institutions of society. At this session, Mr. Wladawsky-Berger shared his reflections on the roles of libraries in this era of rapid and far-reaching technological change.

In his view, libraries have always helped people to organize and make sense of huge amounts of information, and technology has simply given us new tools to do so. As a matter of fact, Google and its ilk have only made it more important that people have libraries and librarians to turn to for assistance in sorting through the huge overload of possibilities available in cyberspace. Our job has been and continues to be to help our patrons spend their time effectively and satisfactorily.

Librarians remain trusted authorities, able to assess the reliability of the many data sources now available. Instead of surfing the web indiscriminately, save time and be more productive by trying one of the subscription databases the Library offers or a topical website tested and recommended by our staff.

Librarians know the tastes and interests of their communities and, through a thoughtful acquisitions process enhanced by the use of technology, select and share the very best of the many thousands of new books published every year.

Librarians guide individual readers through the mass of choices, using displays, booklists, personal interaction and online resources such as Novelist and BookLetters to match each reader to those books most likely to please him or her.

Other library technologies make it possible to place holds and renew items online, access the catalog and databases 24/7 and perform many other tasks quickly and efficiently – leaving you more time to read that special book your librarian found just for you!

1 comment:

Rob said...

Thanks for your interesting insights, Mary. Mr. Wladawsky-Berger's presentation must have been fascinating. I do wonder though, especially in light of the proposed "library project" what our libraries will actually look like in 10-20 years. What I mean is, you've discussed technology mostly in terms of searching for information and texts, but will these works be distributed on printed pages in books as we know them today? Did Wladawsky-Berger discuss the future role of books vs. digital media?

-- Rob --