Those pondering the impact of the digital world on libraries may be interested in this podcast of a lecture called “Libraries at Risk” by Professor David McKitterick (Trinity College, Cambridge). The lecture took place at the Seminar on the History of Libraries at the Institute of English Studies, University of London, UK on 30 November 2010. Professor McKitterick lists example after example of historic collections being dispersed, for reasons of space or money or both.
For those of us dealing with the dispersal, often without notice, of college libraries’ more modest collections, these narratives will be familiar, though the examples provided by Professor McKitterick are surprising. That historic collections are being dispersed suggests the strain the digital age imposes on libraries. The promise of acquiring space seems irresistible. In many libraries, shelves and books have been removed to make room for long tables of computers. Everyone will recognize the increasing need to provide space for computers, though planning for machines that keep shrinking and may change radically is no simple task. Also at issue is the question of who decides which books to purge.
The lecture details the fragility of libraries and their holdings, and makes an eloquent plea for greater and more open dialogue about libraries’ plans to sell books.
The seminar’s convenors are Keith Manley and Giles Mandelbrote. The lecture lasts forty-one minutes.