Are Librarians Totally Obsolete?
Feb 01, 2007
Commentary by Stephen Downes
Another one of those articles that leaps to the defense of librarians. It's just not convincing. Many of the arguments are of the "we won't let you" variety - the author points out that not all books are digitized, that online collections require registration, that Google's book search doesn't work, and the like. These, though, are artificial barriers, created by publishers. Librarians - some, at least - collude with the publishers because they think it will keep libraries relevant. It won't. At the first hint that librarians will no longer provide free labour (indexing, sorting, enforcing accessrestrictions) for publishers, they will be disintermediated. Why do you think Blackboard signs deals with publishers? No, librarians, if they want to remain relevant, need to curate digital archives and manage e-print repositiories. There is the idea of a library as a big collection of books and journals you bought from publishers to make available to your staff and students. Many librarians cling to that idea. They shouldn't. It's over.
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