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October 30, 2008

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I'll offer a parallel. For over a decade it's been conventional wisdom that the internet is the death knell for public libraries. People will get their reading material online instead of borrowing it in print. Even when libraries started adding computers for service, the expectation was that we'd see a shift in use from print to electronic.

Nope. In most of the US, public library use - and more specifically "checking out stuff" (aka circulation) - has increased pretty consistently. The online stuff is supplement, not replacement. Libraries will probably change a bit if they want to continue existing, but that's normal - and a long way from "doomed".

Just another datapoint.

Totally intrigued by this whole situation. I'm pretty average in the tech department,but my father worked in the telecommunications industry for at years. This stuff would blow his mind.

Kirk, a question about the library parallel. Since I don't use the public library at all anymore, given the internet and university/law school libraries I have access to, I'm curious as to what libraries have done to supplement their material and how it has increased access and circulation.

Is there any internet source that we amateurs can consult which describes how other countries handle the issue of spectrum allocation?

What I'm hoping for is wireless broadband so that I can access my web radio anywhere instead of having to put up with the vapid content on over the air radio at work. Sure, there's satellite (for a fee), but I want to have the ability to bypass all of that for being able to tune into the infinite choices of the internet-or even my own files from home.

What I believe is holding it up is that so many of the people who are in charge of making tech policy can barely do e-mail.

AdamC, to some extent it varies, but there are some basics.

At the simplest level is the libraries provide what MOST people cannot or would prefer not to get at home. There are a number of print books that are unavailable online - both fiction and non-fiction. There are also the expensive resources that are extremely useful to the public once in a while, but not worth buying. I have a favorite example here - the OED (Oxford English Dictionary), which costs a small fortune. The principles apply across the selection environment - provide what a significant proportion of the community does not have.

To a certain extent it's an example of economics (comparative advantage). Everyone will have as much of Their Interest as possible, and the library is unlikely to have more on that than they are (unless it is a specialized library.) But for their secondary and occasional interests, and if the budget is small even for a portion of Their Interest, the library's attempt to provide a balanced collection means it will have more.

Add to this the fact that libraries are not merely warehouses of books. We get taught there are four roles a library can and to some extent does perform in a community. It is a resource for entertainment, education, information and socialization. Yes, we tend to cluster those about information storage and dissemination systems (books, CDs, DVDs, microfilm, etc), but we try to do all the roles.

The specifics are going to depend on the library, which in turn depends upon the library served.

If everything becomes available over the internet, this may change. It's just it's not there yet, and most libraries are working on the long tail.

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