I’ve got a piece on the end of cyberspace and its meaning for libraries in the just-published Berkshire Savant, the newsletter of Berkshire Publishing.
None of us were supposed to be here. According to futurists writing in the early years of the personal computer age, by 2005 printed newsletters were supposed to be obsolete, books a rarity, libraries an anachronism. Digital media were creating an alternate dimension of information and thought: cyberspace. In cyberspace, information would roam free of the constraints of pages and books, becoming accessible anywhere to anyone, unstoppable by borders, unmanageable by jealous professions and priesthoods. So why are you still librarians, working in libraries, reading this in a printed newsletter?
Partly I wrote it because it’s hard to say no to Karen Christensen, Berkshire’s co-founder and CEO, but mainly because Berkshire Savant sounds like a 19th-century literary magazine that published some of Emerson and Thoreau’s early works, was run as a labor of love and expression of faith in emerging American intellectual life, and is now available only in a handful of New England college and atheneum libraries.
And, as I’ve thought about claims about the impact of cyberspace (and the Internet and digital communications more generally), it struck me that the failure of the library to disappear— despite the consistency of a decade’s punditry that held that the library was an expensive, outmoded anachronism— would help understand what cyberspace hath and hath not wrought. And, conversely, thinking about what just-over-the-horizon technologies like RFID could do for libraries would help illuminate the possibilities that emerging technologies will create for connecting bits and atoms.
The entire issue of the Savant is quite interesting, just as one would expect from Berkshire, which is the Maas Biolabs of reference publishing— small, ruthless, and all Edge.
The newsletter is available as a PDF, but be warned, it’s an awfully big file (over 4 MB).
[To the tune of Peter Gabriel, «Digging In The Dirt,» from the album «Secret World Live».]
Technorati Tags: cyberspace, future, library