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Libraries Will Outlast the Internet

August 5, 2015

By Alan Kilpatrick

Roly Keating, the director of the British Library, asserted in a recent Telegraph article (written by Hannah Furness) that libraries could well outlast the internet.  Addressing the common perception that libraries are becoming less relevant in our increasingly digital world, Keating notes:

I was surprised, and continue to be, how many smart people ask me in all seriousness “do we really still need these library things in this age of smart phones, search engines” and so on?… When we talk about libraries, I’m told about the old values, the traditional values of these institutions. Some believe they are being replaced by new ones about being more open and connected and virtual.

As a Reference Librarian with the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library, I often encounter this inaccurate perception, questioning the continued need for our library.  To battle this perception and to ensure the library remains at the forefront of relevancy, one of our goals has been to reintroduce the Saskatchewan legal community to the resources and expertise the library offers and to position the library as the central hub for legal resources in the province.

The library offers expert legal research services to members and frequent legal research instruction sessions such webinars, interactive bootcamps, and online tutorials.  The library has led the campaign to digitize Saskatchewan case law this past year.  We can now boast that coverage of Saskatchewan case law has increased substantially and that CanLII now features a nearly complete record of Saskatchewan case law back to 1907.  The Members’ Section of the Law Society website features convenient desktop access to an impressive range of subscription databases and ebooks.

In response to the common misconception that libraries are destined for irrelevancy in the face of the internet juggernaut, Keating highlights the enduring values libraries continue to embody:

“[Libraries] stand for a certain freedom, and privacy of thought and search and expression… They stand for private study in a social space; they are safe, they’re places of sanctuary and play a vital role in some of the poorest communities. And they are trusted…The time frame we think on, centuries back and centuries into the future, allows us to think about trust in its highest sense, and authentication and provenance of information, and digital information in particular…Those are hard-won privileges and values and they’re worth defending.”

Keating aptly concludes, “With all our fascination of and love for the internet in the age of data, these values and the values and idea of the library predated the internet and if we get it right may yet outlast it.”

You can read the full article here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/11627276/Libraries-could-outlast-the-internet-head-of-British-Library-says.html

Will libraries outlast the internet?  Yes, I believe they will.  Let us know what you think.

(Reposted from Legal Sourcery)

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