Digitize It – The case for digizing our libraries

American works best when information can flow freely. In the digital age the fastest way to reach the most people is through the Internet. This is why digitizing our libraries will be a learning revolution.

During the Age of Enlightenment people imagined a learning revolution, a Republic of Letters. Here information could be exchanged and debated without intervention from police, boundaries, or attention to inequalities. Anyone could be part of this provided one could read and right. Digitizing books for Internet viewing is the logical progression of that ideal.

Major universities like Stanford, Harvard, Oxford, the University of Michigan as well as the NY Public Library have already been digitizing books to be available on Google Books. Think of all the money that institutions can save by doing this. Right now, libraries must employ many librarians for cataloging and replacing books. Now consider the time and money spent on preserving books and texts. Access is often limited to these texts because of their condition. Digitizing them solves that. I could instantly look at a colonial text without worry of damaging the paper.

The Library of Congress has been one of the largest contributors to digital books. They will soon scan their 25,000th book. “The Library of Congress is preserving knowledge by giving new life to these ‘brittle books.’ The digital files will be accessible online, while the physical volumes will go into long-term special storage,” said Deanna Marcum, Associate Librarian for Library Services. “This represents one of the many ways the Library of Congress is ensuring continuing and expanding access to its trove of knowledge.”

Through a program like Google Scholar you could search a massive amount of information you could never find at a conventional library. “Google Scholar permits one to do an associative search, finding other texts that are similar to the one I assign, permitting students to go into more detail and do research in an area more thoroughly,” said one Stanford official. Some detest this form of research. They are just afraid. “How will we force college freshmen to take those boring research and writing classes anymore! They wont have to sit in piles of moldy books for ten hours a day like I did. IT’S NOT FAIR!”

As someone who has had to do a lot of research with a lot of texts that smelled moldy I’m looking forward to this. To not spend hours in the library hauling pounds of books sounds just divine. Around the last year of my BA, I was researching a paper on the religion of slave owners in the South. Through Google Books and Scholar I found old newsletters and sermons from the antebellum South I could never have laid hands on here in Maine. How can anyone be against that?

If you still aren’t convinced here are just a few other pluses to E-Libraries: You can look at a book outside library hours and never have to return it. Newspapers, magazines, books, and journals are all right there in your home, though you could argue that you can read most newspapers and magazines online already. You never have to wait for someone else to be finished with a book. Searchers can find information quickly and easily. 80 gigs of hard drive space can hold thousands of books.

Physical books will never disappear. A screen cannot replace the joy of having a tactile connection with a book. While there is still something special about having a text in your hands, digitizing library catalogs can fill the need when that is not possible.

The digital revolution has not only arrived it is in full swing. We must set the standards for education innovation once more. Digitizing our libraries for the masses is an essential step in that direction.


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