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The Infinite Library (08 Apr 2005)
Surprisingly, however, most backers of library digitization expect exactly the opposite effect. They point out that libraries in the United States are gaining users, despite the advent of the Web, and that libraries are being constructed or renovated at an unprecedented rate (architect Rem Koolhaas’s Seattle Central Library, for example, is the new jewel of that city’s downtown). And they predict that 21st-century citizens will head to their local libraries in even greater numbers, whether to use their free Internet terminals, consult reference specialists, or find physical copies of copyrighted books. (Under the Google model, only snippets from these books will be viewable on the Web, unless their authors and publishers agree otherwise.) And considering that the flood of new digital material will make the job of classifying, cata­loguing, and guiding readers to the right texts even more demanding, librarians could become busier than ever.

“I chafe at the presumption that once you digitize, there is nothing left to do,” says Donald Waters, a former director of the Digital Library Federation who now oversees the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s extensive philanthropic investments in projects to enhance scholarly communication. “There is an enormous amount to do, and digitizing is just scratching the surface.”
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