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Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES


UNIVERSITY
NAME

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

ABSTRACT
The libraries have been the centre of education for thousands of years now. There is no doubt
that the role of libraries is changing with the digitalisation of the world. Thus, the question
arises about the role of libraries. The answer to this question would have been very clear cut
and to the point fifty years ago than it is today. Libraries can be considered as the storehouse
of knowledge held in books. Every human activity be it education, research, invention,
leisure etc. has always been dependent on some kind of information which are generally
found in books. Therefore, the libraries were made to be the reservoir of information and
knowledge.
But with the advancement in information technology and the internet are changing the
function and philosophies of the libraries. The importance of libraries is decreasing as the
digitalised versions of books are easy to avail in the Internet. This advancement in technology
is paving the way for the digital libraries which are often considered as the future and a
replacement for the old libraries. In the year 1992, at a conference in Harvard University
someone stated it will not soon be economically feasible to convert much of the holdings of
rare book libraries into electronic form (1) but within twenty-four years huge online
databases for various genre of books have been created. This research paper revisits the
golden history of the Libraries and tries to predict a probable future for these temples of
knowledge.
KEYWORDS
Library, database, e-book, e-journals

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

INTRODUCTION
As stated earlier Libraries are storehouses of valuable information which gives access to
people for borrowing or referencing the information. The access can be physical or digital
and it may provide a real reading room or a virtual one. The contents of the libraries are
generally books, important documents, magazines, journals, films, audio books, cassettes, ebooks, databases, maps etc. The word library is derived from the Latin and Greek Words
Bibliotheca and Bibliothk respectively which means bookshelf. The earliest libraries were
simply archives of some earliest form of writings like clay tablets some of which dated back
to 2600 BC. Libraries are maintained generally by public bodies, institutions or private
individuals. Libraries also provide space or a reading area for studying or group studies. In
modern days the libraries are developing far beyond the walls of a building by the means of
electronic forms and online databases with librarians who analyze the humongous amount of
information with various digital tools.
Although libraries remain as the centre of knowledge on the face of society for various
purposes like education, recreation, profession etc. but a sword has been laid to its roots
which bind the philosophies set earlier. Thus, it can be stated that libraries are in a state of
gush, polarised between the traditionalists who dont believe in the idea of digitalisation and
the revolutionaries who try to digitalise the paper bound books into electronic or digital ones.
According to the reports- in the UK the JISC has set up a Content Alliance of major players
to take forward the digitisation agenda, and JISC has to date invested 22M in projects for
the retrospective digitisation of important research resources (2).
Meanwhile, these changes are going on there had also been a change in the way of studying
the history of libraries. Since the dusk of 1950s when the celebrated book of Lefebvre and
Martin, LApparition du Livre was published the term historical bibliography disappeared

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

from the- history of libraries (3). The revolutionary ideas of Don McKenzie on sociology of
texts- how the material form in which texts are transmitted influences- had received attention
of many contemporary literary historians on the importance of books and libraries (4).
Well to talk about the future of libraries one can only say that there has been a huge shift
ongoing in the 21st century. The shift is from physical libraries to their digital counterparts.
With the involvement of giant companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo one does not need to
go to the public libraries to avail a book or information. One can simply log into the online
databases from their computers, smart-phones or tablets from any corner of the world. In
between 2002 and 2004- the average American academic library saw the overall number of
transactions decline approximately 2.2% (5). This has put a wage between the public libraries
and the digital ones. In spite of the challenges the public libraries are trying way hard to
survive in the digital world.

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

HISTORY OF LIBRARIES
Early Libraries
The earliest libraries were the archives of few earliest forms of writings- the clay tablets in
cuneiform script discovered in temple rooms in Sumer (6) - which dated back to 2600 BC.
These inscriptions on clay tablets were mainly records of various types of transactions
happened. In Egypt in the ancient city of Papyrus similar archives containing clay tablets
were discovered. Evidence of the existence of libraries was also found in the ancient cities of
Nippur and Nineveh. 30,000 clay tablets containing various information and texts on
transactions, business records, myths were being discovered from the Ashurbanipal Library
which was discovered by archaeologists in Nineveh. It provided the literary historians an
insight to the literary wealth of Ancient Mesopotamia. Laozi the Chinese philosopher was a
book keeper at an early library in china which was the property of Zhou dynasty.
Classical Libraries
The Library of Alexendria in Egypt -was the largest and most significant great library of the
ancient world (7). The library flourished during the Ptolemaic dynasty, who was great patrons
of books and literature. The library of Celsus located in modern Turkey was another example
of ancient times. The library was the home to 12,000 scrolls. Private libraries first appeared in
the 5th century BC in ancient Greece. Records of private libraries were found in the time of
Octavius Caesar. In Europe the early public libraries were established in the graceful Roman
Empire which was made accessible to the common people. Octavius created several libraries
one being in the Temple of Appollo. The libraries were full of parchment scrolls full of
valuable information.
Libraries of late Antiquity

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

The late antiquity marked the development of monastic libraries and scriptoriums. They were
generally large sun lit barren rooms were the main features of scriptoriums. The scriptoriums
were considered essential for the spiritual development of a person. These monastic libraries
were maintained by monasteries where monks used read the religious scrolls and say their
prayers.
With the start of Dark barbaric age in Europe the monastic libraries got converted into
imperial libraries which were located in the royal palaces. In the 6 th century during the close
of the classical period the libraries of Mediterranean and Alexandria was considered as great
libraries.
Middle Ages
The libraries of the middle ages were mainly those in Europe, Asia and in the Islamic lands of
Arabia. The early libraries Arabia was not meant for the general public- but they contained
much knowledge. The need for the preservation of the Quran, the Muslim Holy Book, and the
Traditions of the Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam is what led to the collection of writings in
the Muslim world. Where traditions and history used to be oral, the need to preserve the
words of the Quran necessitated a method of preserving the words by some means other than
orally. Mosques that were the centre of everything in a Muslim societys day-to-day life
became also libraries that stored and preserved all knowledge, from the Quran to books on
religion, philosophy and science. Under the Abbasids, Muslims formed the vanguard of
civilization. The Abbasids were influenced by the Quran and Hadith such as, "the ink of
scholar is equal to the blood of martyr (8). By the start of 8 th century CE the Arabs learnt to
make paper from the Chinese and started paper mills. This marked the beginning of public
libraries in the Muslim Lands.

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

In the early middle ages in Europe- monastery libraries developed, such as the important one
at the Abbey of Montecassino in Italy. Books were usually chained to the shelves, reflecting
the fact that manuscripts, which were created via the labour-intensive process of hand
copying, were valuable possessions (9). In spite of the protectiveness many libraries used to
borrow books if needed paying security fee also.
Renaissance & Modern Day Libraries
During the renaissance period in northern and central Italy- libraries of humanists and their
enlightened patrons provided a nucleus around which an "academy" of scholars congregated
in each Italian city of consequence. Malatesta Novello, lord of Cesena, founded the
Malatestiana Library. Cosimo de Medici in Florence established his own collection, which
formed the basis of the Laurentian Library (10).
During this period there was a revolution going on in the field of arts, literature and science.
Many libraries were formed although they did not have volumes like the modern day libraries
but they soon became the centre of knowledge for people.
The 19th century marked the beginning of the modern day libraries. It started with the Public
Library Act of 1850 in Great Britain. Then there was no looking back public libraries
developed throughout the world giving access to the common mass to gain knowledge and
borrow books.

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

FUTURE OF LIBRARIES
There is no doubt that the role of libraries is changing with the digitalisation of the world. A
recent feature on the future of libraries in the Guardian newspaper stated- Academic
libraries are changing faster than at any time in their history. Information technology, online
databases and catalogues and digitised archives have put the library back at the heart of
teaching learning and academic research on campus (11). Such a media attention is welcome
and raises the profile of libraries, acknowledging what all information professionals know
that access to high quality information is at the heart of research and the knowledge economy.
Over the last decade huge strides have been made in the provision of and access to,
information by libraries. Most major journal publishers now provide their entire portfolio in
digital format and the transition by libraries from printed journal holdings to electronic
journals (e-journals) is rapid. The traditional journal package as we know it is also evolving.
Blogs and Wikis, links to research data, RSS feeds and online peer review are all becoming
commonplace. Book publishers are catching up, and electronic books (e-books) are becoming
an important element of library collections. Scholarly book publishers increasingly publish
both print and electronic versions of their books, although this does not generally apply to
textbooks. Amazon a major player in the mass book market is rapidly signing deals with
publishers to make e-books available and providing access to readers via their Kindle e-book
reader. If we also consider the huge amounts of older and rarer research materials being made
available online by local and national digitisation initiatives, the vast scale of the ric
information resource available to scholars and researchers becomes apparent. As we consider
the future role of academic libraries we should note the words of Clifford Lynch: Digital
technologies have opened the door to a host of new possibilities for sharing knowledge and
generated entirely new forms of content that must be made broadly available. This shift

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

demands that universities take on a much more active role in ensuring dissemination of the
knowledge produced by their institutions both now and in the future. (12)
Journals have always been one of the most important types of resource for scholars. They
also constitute the major expenditure on materials in most academic libraries. Currently there
are about 21,000 peer reviewed journals published world-wide, containing about 1.4 million
articles each year. The world market for scholarly journals is estimated at 5 billion.
According to Mabe 3 the number of journals continues to grow year-on-year by about three
per cent and the number of articles grows at approximately 3.5 per cent per year. Amazingly,
these figures have been relatively consistent over the last two hundred years. But the ever
increasing output of scholarly journals and articles has created a major problem for libraries
and the serials crisis i.e. the inability of library budgets to keep up the ever increasing
amount of published journals - has been an enduring topic in the library literature for many
decades (12). One might argue that in the print environment the management of journal
collections was relatively straightforward. Annual subscriptions were placed for individual
titles and when the cost of the collection exceeded the budget, individual titles were cancelled
to balance the books. However, the current model of e-journal acquisition is not so simple.
Most major scholarly publishers now sell their entire e-journal portfolio in a package
known as the big deal.
CONCLUSION
The advancement in information technology and the internet are changing the function and
philosophies of the libraries. The importance of libraries is decreasing as the digitalised
versions of books are easy to avail in the Internet. This advancement in technology is paving
the way for the digital libraries which are often considered as the future and a replacement for
the old libraries.

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

Although libraries remain as the centre of knowledge on the face of society for various
purposes like education, recreation, profession etc. but a sword has been laid to its roots
which bind the philosophies set earlier. Thus, it can be stated that libraries are in a state of
gush, polarised between the traditionalists who dont believe in the idea of digitalisation and
the revolutionaries who try to digitalise the paper bound books into electronic or digital ones.
Despite the challenges the public libraries are trying way hard to survive in the digital world.

Running Head: HISTORY & FUTURE OF LIBRARIES

REFERENCES
1. Stanley Katz, Form and substance in the electronic age in Richard Wendorf (ed),
Rare book and manuscript libraries in the twenty-first century (Cambridge, 1993), 172.
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Lucien Febvre and H.-J. Martin, Lapparition du livre, Paris, 1958
D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, London, 1986.
Applegate, Rachel. "Whose Decline? Which Academic Libraries are "Deserted" in
Terms of Reference Transactions?" Reference & User Services Quarterly; 2nd ser. 48

(2008): 17689. Print.


6. Casson, Lionel (11 August 2002). Libraries in the Ancient World. Yale University
Press. p. 3. Retrieved 7 March 2012.
7. Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Sagan, C 1980, "Episode 1: The Shores of the Cosmic
Ocean".
8. Wani, Z. A., & Maqbol, T. (2012). The Islamic Era and Its Importance to Knowledge
and the Development of Libraries. Library Philosophy & Practice, p. 207.
9. Streeter, Burnett Hillman (10 March 2011). The Chained Library. Cambridge
University Press. Retrieved 6 March 2012.
10. Survivor: The History of the Library, history-magazine.com
11. Libraries unleashed: colleges, universities and the digital challenge. Available at:
http://www.education. guardian.co.uk/librariesunleashed (accessed 2 September
2009).
12. Lynch, C. (2009) Universities need to promote broader dissemination of research and
scholarship, Association of Research Libraries, Press Release.
13. Mabe, M. (2006). (Electronic) journal publishing. In: The E-Resources Management

Handbook, UKSG