Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Short, We Need More Space

One of my college professors used to use a humorous speech called "A Speech For All Occasions". It began with the phrase, "A funny thing happened to me on the way to the meeting," and built from there to make the point, "In short, we need more funding." The rest of the speech was made from clich├ęs and stock phrases cobbled together in a way that almost made sense.

I sometimes feel like my reports on the library could make use of that speech. Instead of funding in general, though, my plea usually boils down to a specific plea for space. I do not think I am the only librarian facing this issue.

I saw in the OCLC announcements that a new OCLC staff blog has been started: Metalogue. The July 2 post is titled, "Library Preservation: Managing the Collective Collection Over Time". In it, Janifer Gatenby summarizes what many of us already know -- publication of print items continues to expand at unprecedented rates. She mentions the staggering statistic that the British Library reports a growth in shelving of 12 kilometers--pardon me, make that "kilometres"--per year. As a result, more libraries are making use of off-site storage, creating a need for better metadata to assist patrons in selecting appropriate records when they cannot examine the physical items.

To put it bluntly, there has not been a "peace dividend" yet to the digital revolution, at least not for monographs. I am aware that many of our state universities have divested themselves of back runs of periodicals that are now available on JSTOR. For a theological library, there is the option of discarding back runs of journals digitized by ATLA, though there are still niggling difficulties caused by title-specific restrictions on the use of e-journal articles found in aggregator databases. Once you abandon ownership of the physical copy, you are solely dependent on the mercies of the publishers as to how your digital content may be used. For monographs, though, there is nothing in sight yet that is going to relieve us of the obligation to own paper texts that are not in the public domain. And the number of monographs to be acquired only increases each year.

In short, we need more space.

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