Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Future of Libraries, Circa 1926 and Today

In 1926, Charles Belton, President of the American Library Association, spoke of the future of libraries. They would network and make information available to everyone:

Libraries will “no longer to be measured by the books on the shelves of any one library, but which through organization, coordination of resources, and whole-hearted cooperation will extend from town to city, to state, to country, and will finally bring within reach the knowledge of the whole civilized world.”

“It is no idle dream to believe that fifty years hence libraries everywhere will be so closely linked together that, throughout the length and breadth of the country, even the smallest local library will be prepared to provide the best of expert service to adolescent and adult.”

“Before the end of another fifty years we shall see the compilation of a world catalog of all existing books, with their locations. At no distant date this catalog and the rotograph or photostat will be the most important links in that unification of the sources of knowledge by which the libraries will be placed in a position to bring every book to every man

Belton offered this prophecy long before the advent of electronic communication. With our technology, we are closing in on realizing Belton’s vision.

Here is Belton’s full speech. (You need access to JSTOR to read the entire speech. If your library doesn’t give you free access, you can register and get the article for free). And here is a nice posting on the speech at the Ubiquitous Librarian


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