Recently, I have encountered many librarians who are worried about libraries becoming bookless (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/would-you-work-bookless-library-lorette-weldon) institutions. Many have forgotten that libraries are primary centers or repositories for collections of books and any other sources of data to be made available at no cost to the general public.
Over 70 years ago, Vannevar Bush (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1945/07/as-we-may-think/303881/) proposed “memex”. This was to be a device about the size of a desk which could store all the books, records, and communications, of an organization, on some type of media from which this data could be retrieved. Dr. Bush had no means to realize his suggestion. However, the suggestion was a theoretical proposal for what has become the hypertext system and digitization of data for today’s storage means. Hence, I view the World Wide Web, the cloud, and all other digitized storage means as adjuncts to the modern library.
I think of the World Wide Web in the same manner as a real estate agent thinks of land. He or she considers the value of property depending on location, location, location. The World Wide Web can access a large repository or area for data. Now, if I live in certain areas of the United States and other parts of the world, I may not be able to access this data, which is a first location problem. Here we may have to rely on bookmobiles (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/collections-reaching-everyone-matter-location-lorette-weldon).
During the past week, I attempted to obtain data that I knew could be accessed on the World Wide Web. I was using a word search engine. If I had been using a concept search engine, I might have been more successful. There is a difference between these search engines. Here, we encounter the second location issue. At present, there is no perfect way to locate data on the World Wide Web. Also, all data is not always available to every person. Therefore, human expertise may be necessary to locate items on the web.
As long ago as 20 years ago, I had a professor by the name of Dr. Gary Marchionini (Note this was before the World Wide Web) who taught and suggested a development of a Human Computer Information Retrieval System (https://youtu.be/jj5Q3FmPVl0).
The third location issue deals with the use of the library. Can it be used for things other than storing books? The World Wide Web is used for things other than storing or accessing data. Recently, libraries have begun to publish material (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/would-you-work-bookless-library-lorette-weldon) and have started to lend tools (https://youtu.be/rjCpdEZNbNU).
An example of why librarians cannot rely only on printed or e-books is the mission to Pluto. If all goes well, data from that mission will be returning to Earth for about another year. There will be no printed or e-books about all this data for over a year. However, a library should have some type of repository that the public can review until the books or papers have been written. This is also true for comments scholars have recently expressed about literature like the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Bible. An example of active scholarly discussion that is stored by digital means could be through a digital collaborative website open to scholars in the areas of science, engineering, arts, and humanities (http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1640237&dl=ACM&coll=DL&CFID=714298807&CFTOKEN=59924849)
Platforms, such as Amazon, can give reviews on books but they cannot add the specific human element from a professional librarian’s knowledge and experience.
I believe there will always be paper books and now books in electronic media. At present, I believe and can attest to the fact that paper books appear to sell faster than e-books. Also, I believe that there will always be a place (in and out of libraries) for eclectic and/or generalist librarians who can use, as adjuncts, electronic data sources, printed books, espresso book devices, 3-D printers, virtual reality devices, etc. to assist the public to gather data.