Don’t Think of It as a Warehouse or a Museum…

image So says Harvard’s Director of Libraries and Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor Robert Darnton about libraries in this piece in the June 12, 2008 New York Review of Books. Darnton, a renowned historian who teaches a history of the book class here at Harvard, explains that while he is a “Google fan” and thrilled with the increased accessiblity to materials via Google books and other digitization projects, there’s still much to be appreciated in print books.

Darnton concludes his article by assuring readers that libraries are vibrant places where both old fashioned print books and the latest information technology work together for scholars.

While dispensing books, most research libraries operate as nerve centers for transmitting electronic impulses. They acquire data sets, maintain digital repositories, provide access to e-journals, and orchestrate information systems that reach deep into laboratories as well as studies. Many of them are sharing their intellectual wealth with the rest of the world by permitting Google to digitize their printed collections. Therefore, I also say: long live Google, but don’t count on it living long enough to replace that venerable building with the Corinthian columns. As a citadel of learning and as a platform for adventure on the Internet, the research library still deserves to stand at the center of the campus, preserving the past and accumulating energy for the future.

Interested in learning more about the history of the book? Check out this excellent research guide for Darnton’s freshman seminar.

Hat tip: Legal Research Plus

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