Columbia Library columns (v.28(1978Nov-1979May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.28,no.1(1978:Nov): Page 15  

The Library of the Future Has Books


IN the small village in rural Pennsylvania where I spent my
childhood, the town library was housed in a small room lo¬
cated over the fire-house. Since I had read my way through
the permanent collection by the time I was twelve, I well remem¬
ber the excitement and anticipation of the semi-annual occasions
when shipments of new books would arrive from the circulating
collection of the State Library in Harrisburg. It is difficult for me
now, surrounded by the extraordinary collections of the Columbia
Libraries, to recapture that sense of bleak despair at the prospect
of NOTHING to read until the telephone call from the librarian
("The new books are here!") signalled the return of intellectual
and artistic stimulation to my life. To all of us, 1 think, who lived
in the pre-McLuhan world, not yet dependent on computerized
information processing and telecommunications, the book will al¬
ways symbolize a unique tangible record of the quest for knowl¬
edge, understanding and individual experience of the human

During mv intetview with the Search Committee for the posi¬
tion of University Librarian, I x\'as asked to describe my vision of
"the library of future." After fifteen or twenty minutes of discus¬
sion of on-line bibliographic data-bases, publication on-demand
capabilities, and other computerized products, one member of the
Search Committee expressed his impatience with such an over¬
whelming emphasis on technological wonders by exploding, "But
Pat, won't there be any books?"

Since I can no more imagine the research library of the future
without books than I can easily recall that period of my life when
books were not readily a\'ailable, the incident served to underscore
for me the danger of such complacency. However, though the

  v.28,no.1(1978:Nov): Page 15