Computers in Libraries
Vol. 20, No. 6 • June 2000
Be Brave in the New World
by Kathy Miller

Back in the good old days (just a few years ago), collection development usually meant buying a book or subscribing to a periodical for your library. You researched it, ordered it, paid for it, got it in house, processed it, and put it on the shelves. You owned it forever. Or at least you owned it until it got too worn out, went out of date, or until someone lost it or stole it or ripped pages out of it.

Now things are a bit more complicated. Allowing electronic access to everyday resources seemed hard at first, then “virtual collections” came along. Now we are developing collections, both virtual and physical, with electronic resources. And licensing is a bear! Kim Guenther, in her Building Digital Libraries column, laments the same complications. Sometimes it all seems like a bit much, doesn’t it?

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t be such a naysayer. There are bright points to this movement toward electronic collection development. For instance, information about all the items you’re considering is very easy to come by and it can be updated much more frequently than it used to be. And all the complications of recent years are pushing consortia to become bigger and stronger; more people are banding together for the common good. (See Angee Baker’s feature on page 46.) And Janet Balas made a great point in her column as she discussed what e-book lending would mean to libraries. Complications aside, think of this: Since they exist in cyberspace in practically unlimited copies, e-books can never be lost! Since the digital information can simply “expire” on a set due date, e-books can never be late! You won’t have to charge fines! You won’t have to hear the tired old story about how the patron is certain she brought it back! You won’t have to do annual inventory to see whether an e-book has been returned but misplaced on the shelves! Sounds pretty good when you think of it that way ...

Once again, this issue is largely about how our industry and our procedures are changing, and it offers some ways for you to look at the brave new world and deal with it. While I try not to be a curmudgeon who fights against any change, I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who’s thinking, “Stop the progress! I wanna catch my breath.” New things, especially technological developments, can be big pains in the you-know-what or they can be wonderful opportunities, depending on how you choose to look at them. For instance, in the beginning of this editorial, notice how I found it easy to think of both good and bad comments on today’s new developments.

So at the end of the day, I guess my best advice here is this: You can’t change the pace of development, but you can change your attitude about it. If you want to stay in this profession, look to the future with an excited gleam in your eye. There are so many possibilities ...

Kathy Miller, Editor

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