Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Are the Print Versions of Encyclopedias Still Needed? Part 4

By Dr. Enrique T. Cayaban
Director of Libraries
Saint Mary's University
Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya

It was also predicted in the 70’s, gained grounds in the 80’s, that books and other media using papers would have been vanished by year 2000. The reason—the digital revolution will scorch the paper into limbo. This was the message of the many authors who predicted the death of the paper, one of whom is Marshall McLuhan, author of the popular book “ The Medium is the Message”. What was ironic was that McLuhan wrote and preached the end of the printed world by using the print as his most potent medium.

But what happened? Today the demand for papers increased so much that it has become a major source of human waste. The computer which was predicted to take over the paper needed printers to produce reading materials which are now called hard copies instead of paper copies.

The same idea about the death of printed newspapers was presents in the editorial of Manila Times dated December 26, 2006. It stated that:

“The empty sidewalks reminded us of the media experts and techies who are predicting the death of the newspaper. They forecast a day when the dailies will become irrelevant. People will not even miss the printed news … Things could get worse for the papers . . .The forecast is grim: the end is approaching.”

The editorial also touches on books and it says:

“The experts said the same thing about books. More books will be available in the CD ROM. The information highway is littered with books. People will prefer talking books. The libraries of the future will no longer house the traditional volumes but CDs and tapes.

The editorial, however, poignantly points out that books, libraries and of, course, newspapers, are here to stay. Emotively, it says:

Books have not become extinct, thank God. The library will make concessions to technology but readers prefer to take out the traditional book and read the printed word. The bookstores are busy. People prefer to curl up with a book rather than with a squarish or rounded version. . .Newspapers, like books, will survive. They do not have the sound bite of TV, the immediacy of radio or the whiz of the Internet but they offer solid news, news stories with nuance and context, and news analyses that make sense of events. They make readers pause, reflect and consider.”

The editorial has summed up in a more beautiful way what I really believe in: the printed word will never become extinct despite of the world becoming more and more digital. However, it is firmly hoped that both the printed and online editions will co-exist together, for each has its own strengths.

Visionary as it is, St. Mary’s University will surely continue to acquire the printed resources, the non-print, as well as, the electronic resources. For, when a library adds electronic resources and the Internet , both librarians and patrons have an easier access to a wealth of convenient information, but the other printed resources in the collection continue to be useful, functional, valuable and time-honored contributors of knowledge, learning and wisdom.

Although there are advantages and disadvantages of both formats—electronic/digital and print versions, the library has to update these collections. A library which does not purchase new editions will soon have a library typecast as “Jurassic park.” On the other hand, “a library which does not weed its collection will soon have a library of weeds”.

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