IN DEFENCE OF THE TRADITIONAL LIBRARY
Man's desire and effort to document his life and preserve his culture and knowledge predates civilization. Pictorial representations of early human culture etched and engraved on rocks, stones and caves as discovered by archeologists show man's early efforts to document history.
The hunger to preserve and pass on knowledge further gave birth to the papyrus, the parchments, the scroll, the codex and other early media of documentation.
These had their shortcomings as the materials tore and disintegrated with time, while the ink faded and the writing became illegible. The few reading materials that existed were hand-copied as there were no means of mass-production and even these ended up in the hands of a privileged few.
However, the invention of movable-type printing in the 15th century by Johannes Gutenberg revolutionized record-keeping and began to turn out huge copies and volumes of books. The printing and distribution of the Bible gained much from this impetus as it became the most widely-circulated book in the world.
Scholarly and scientific activities also gained momentum as scholars and scientists found an easier and faster medium to express their thoughts and publish their findings. Libraries assumed greater dimensions, housing the great number of books written on all subjects of life - books produced with longer lasting material and printed with indelible ink.
Coming on the heels of mass printing were faster and easier means of transport and communication which served as dispersal agents across the globe for the huge number of volumes and copies of books, touching on all aspects of life.
With the advent of the internet and e-library, many feared that the era of the traditional library was coming to an end. They argued that the virtual library has rendered the traditional library obsolete. But recently, The Vice Chancellor, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, Professor Isaac U. Asuzu, in a library launch, made a strong case for the traditional library. A guru in his field
of learning, Professor Asuzu has extensively and intensively made use of both types of libraries in the course of his numerous research efforts and therefore can speak authoritatively on the relevance of each.
According to him, one major source of relevance for the traditional library is that not every book we need to consult on any subject is found on the internet. This is due to regulations that prohibit free access to books on the internet. Already there is a prohibition on full access of copyrighted books through Google Book search.
Another thing going for the traditional library as elucidated by the vice chancellor is the fact that digital libraries are not on the internet. One might be on the internet but the restrictions placed on access to published books might prevent him from using the books.
One more merit of the traditional library is that while internet service is seemingly free, registration and subscription requirements place a restriction to a deeper access to books, journals and other research materials; whereas one would only need to present a valid identity card and a whole catalogue of research materials is at one's disposal.
There is also the problem of technical glitches on the computer, which can be quite frustrating when you desperately need to work. Hear Prof. Asuzu: “Often, when I need to use the dictionary on my computer and cannot get in for any reason, I will just reach up the shelf and a dictionary is in my hands for use.” The usefulness and convenience of the conventional books library cannot be traded for the technological fad that has seized the society in our modern times.
The two can at best complement each other. In defense of the conventional library, Professor
Asuzu has this to say: 'Society is not ready to abandon the library, and it probably won't ever because libraries can adapt to social technological changes but they can't be replaced.’
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