Today’s Inside Higher Ed has an article by Barbara Fister called “The Library Vanishes – Again” that may be of interest.
Fister reports that EBSCO, which provides the Academic Search Premier database,” no longer offers full access to The Economist due to a contract dispute. Similarly, the ERIC database, an online database of education research and information, was taken offline because of undisclosed “privacy concerns.” It will remain offline until the privacy issues are resolved. Fister conjectures that the privacy issues ailing ERIC might well result from the searchability of digitized databases: now that ERIC’s 360,000+ documents are online, data within those documents, including confidential data, is simply easier to find. As she puts it,
materials that were publicly available in a pre-web state tended to evade notice; web access is wonderful, but it exposes things.
Fister’s article confirms the digital world’s double identity of promise and instability. Digitization makes items accessible and at its best provides full-text searchability. But until some core values are arrived at regarding how to guarantee digital life spans, a library’s promise of access, ever contingent on library budgets and whims, remains in question.
This fall may be a good time to give thought to the library as it is affected by digitization.