Counting books and bookshelves today is akin to counting horseshoes and blacksmith shops 100 years ago. These are examples of transformative situations.
The Institute of Museums and Library Services recognized a number of transformations in its Public Libraries Survey Fiscal Year 2009 published in October 2011 (available on-line at http://www.imls.gov/assets/1/News/PLS2009.….
In the Executive Summary (page 15), it states in part:
“The nature and composition of collections in U.S. public libraries is changing, indicating the more varied types of materials found in modern public libraries. Although the volume of print materials has decreased over the past 10 years, collections overall continue to grow because of increases in the number of audio, video, and electronic book materials.
The role of public libraries in providing Internet resources to the public continues to increase. The availability of Internet-ready computer terminals in public libraries has doubled over the past 10 years. Internet PC use has also increased.”
A few observations to consider: (1) by the time a book is published, the material is often out of date, (2) video clips of art or travel are much more impactful than a two-dimensional photo in a book, and (3) the Encyclopedia Britannica embraced on-line publication and ceased printing books in March 2012.
Perhaps this is the time to consider forward looking metrics with which to evaluate our library system.
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