There were ominous omens for libraries in my morning paper (New York Times) September 4. Later that day I took a closer look at “Principles and Strategies for the Reform of Scholarly Communication” adopted by the board of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) last June.

The realization quickly dawned that the combination of new technology and corporate concentration is changing the way people get and use their information. This is as true in popular media and entertainment as it is in scholarly communication.

It is clear now that all libraries–public, academic, school, and special–feel the impact of these developments. So far, only academic librarians have initiated comprehensive strategies and means to protect free access to information and to ensure the future of a public domain in information. This militancy must extend to include the entire profession–all the librarians who serve a public that uses the information and entertainment products of the popular marketplace.

If left unchallenged and unchecked, the new means and methods used by the corporate giants to market and distribute their wares could obliterate the library as we know it.

One full-page advertisement in that morning’s paper heralded “the next phase in popular entertainment.” Its promise to liberate the customer from “trips to the video store” and “late fees” could easily apply to libraries. Just “pick, click, and watch the flick,” the ad joyously chirped. The ad doesn’t mention the price.

The ACRL document is the latest of the increasingly strident responses of the academic and research library community to the endless new threats to access to scholarly information. New digital ways of publishing and distributing that information combine darkly with the growing presence in and control of that business by massive international conglomerates.

Internet delivery for performance of download, fee-per-use systems of selling content, and other new methods threaten to eliminate collections of print and other media formats. They negate the varieties of public access that these collections and the agencies that built them instituted for users. The idea of “fair use” could become irrelevant in a world where no information of entertainment product is ever owned by a library or person but is simply licensed to them from some central, digital repository “owned” and controlled by some international syndicate. The implications for access, control, and preservation of such products have not escaped the attention of librarians, but the broad mobilization of the profession to protect those values, with unified action from all types of libraries, has not developed.

ACRL’s principles include the development of new models, policies, and practices to preserve information for future use, guarantee fair use of scholarly information, and protect the right and capacity of libraries to make terms of user access economically reasonable. They feature tools to create greater awareness of the need for change in the system and public policy to support it.

Clearly such principles and strategies must be expanded to include the information and entertainment products used by public and school libraries. To assure a future for the kind of full, free access to resources that libraries provided in the print era, the entire profession must organize, strategize, and aggressively act to address these ominous omens faced by our brave new library.

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Esta entrada foi publicada Sexta-feira, 17/Outubro/2003 sob o tema Miscelânea.

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