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The Fully Electronic Academic Library
Norman D. Stevens
This description of the planning for the first academic library to contain only electronic resources, and no books and no paper of any kind, is derived from the limitless possibilities of our imagination. The concept of such a library and the dramatic changes it will bring in collections, budgets, staffing, services, and buildings areoutlined in detail. Finally a few questions are raised as to whether such a library will best serve the information needs of academic institutions in the twenty-first century. So let us think kindly of those who would frighten us by slogans and catch-words about the great and growing mass of the world’s literature, and of those who would take pity on our benighted state to solve all of our problems withmachines they have not yet thought about.1

lthough, historically, most libraries began as collections of “books” in a single format, almost every library has been faced sooner or later with the problem of how to handle information in other formats. In ancient times, a library of tablets had to deal with scrolls and then a library with scrolls had to deal with codices. As new informationformats, such as motion pictures and sound recordings, emerged in the early 1900s, many libraries were reluctant to add such unproven technologies to their collections. But by the

end of the twentieth century, almost all libraries had enthusiastically embraced a full range of new technologies while still maintaining sizeable book collections. Most libraries are still challenged by the necessity tohandle materials in a wide variety of formats assisted by a wide variety of machines of one kind or another. It has been difficult for libraries to achieve even a portion of the real cost savings that information technology might offer; instead, the cost of new information technology is an addition to, not a substitute for, existing costs.

Norman D. Stevens is Director, The Molesworth Institute, andDirector of University Libraries, Emeritus, at the University of Connecticut; e-mail: norman.stevens@uconn.edu. The Molesworth Institute’s EBU Library Research and Planning Team included the following individuals: Ted E. Behr, Curator of Artifacts; Göran Berntsson, Swedish Fellow; Cecily Cardew, Librarian; Chelsea Flower, Director Designate; Michael Gorman, Fellow; Bengt Hjelmqvist, SeniorSwedish Fellow; Rossana Morriello, Italian Fellow; Timothy Peason, Assistant Librarian; Octavia Porter Randolph, Architectural Fellow & Scribe; Nouleigh Rhee Furbished, Preservation Officer; Norman D. Stevens, Director; and Jackie Urbanovic, Institute Artist-in-Residence.


6 College & Research Libraries Almost from the emergence of the codex, inventions to assist with, or convert, the informationin books have been proposed, developed, and sometimes even used with one degree of success or another. Ideas such as Ramelli’s scholar’s book wheel have regularly appeared and just as regularly disappeared only to be later recalled as interesting anomalies.2 In the past fi�y years, a�er a slow developmental phase, computer and information technology have truly transformed libraries. Vannevar Bush’slandmark 1945 article “As We May Think,” which proposed the scholar’s workstation called Memex, foresaw the changes that were to come.3 The Molesworth Institute, which was founded in the mid-1950s just as library automation burst on to the scene, has been one of the chief commentators on various aspects of the more arcane and fanciful library applications of technology.4 Its research staff watchedwith particular interest various proposals in the late 1960s by scientists with only a dim idea of the true nature of libraries who predicted that by 2000 a computer-based national research library would replace academic libraries.5 The staff also took note of F. W. Lancaster’s equally fanciful 1978 Toward Paperless Information Systems, in which he predicted that we would now be living in the...
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