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BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google

by John Palfrey

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3361676,163 (3.63)6
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Libraries today are more important than ever. More than just book repositories, libraries can become bulwarks against some of the most crucial challenges of our age: unequal access to education, jobs, and information.
In BiblioTech, educator and technology expert John Palfrey argues that anyone seeking to participate in the 21st century needs to understand how to find and use the vast stores of information available online. And libraries, which play a crucial role in making these skills and information available, are at risk. In order to survive our rapidly modernizing world and dwindling government funding, libraries must make the transition to a digital future as soon as possibleâ??by digitizing print material and ensuring that born-digital material is publicly available online.
Not all of these changes will be easy for libraries to implement. But as Palfrey boldly argues, these modifications are vital if we hope to save libraries and, through them, the American democratic ideal.… (more)

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Palfrey, J. (2015). BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. New York, NY:Basic Books.

John Palfrey, the former head of the Harvard Law School Library and the founding chairman of the Digital Public Library of America, believes that libraries are being left behind in the Stone Age. This is due in part by the technology that is being developed by the private sector and this technology is greatly influencing how people interact, create, and receive information. In his book, Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google, Palfrey argues for the transformation of libraries, one that remakes the technology, goals, and training of libraries to meet the demands of the information age in which we live.

For Palfrey, libraries are too often viewed as institutions where information is used not made and shared. Simply put, libraries are seen as centers of distribution not centers of production. The fear is that private companies will continue their monopoly on the information age and that the main conduits of information will fall into the hands of the few and privileged. These private companies, such as Amazon and Google (to name a few) are informing the digital information practices of library users and are outpacing the digital shift in libraries.

Because private companies have become the “key intermediary” in how patrons of libraries utilize digital media and obtain knowledge, Palfrey proposes that libraries must update their services to meet the demands of our increasingly digital world. He argues that libraries need to be come interactive environments (through the developments of creative ventures like maker spaces), where people could make instead of simply consume culture. Many libraries have started to become institutions of digital and creative innovation providing robotic classes, digital labs, and more. But, many are unable to afford such changes and this makes me wonder if change on a grand scale is possible.

Palfrey argues that libraries must be networks, and should be viewed as platforms, which are open to collaboration (especially with technologists, futurists, programmers, as well as other informational institutions). I found this be a provocative idea because the potential for access and services for patrons through interconnected institutions would be immense. Many libraries are underfunded and could use such partnerships to serve their patrons.

What I found most intriguing within the book was Palfrey’s argument for digitization. One benefit of a shared network is that libraries can distribute the workload of digitization while learning from others. The only way to truly preserve items, especially in a time of severe budget cuts is to advocate for digitization partnerships. Digitization and preservation of collections is a tremendous task that no single institution will be able to effectively manage in the future. I believe Palfrey’s ideas are not only needed but should be acted upon if we are going to attempt to face the challenges of 21st century preservation.

Palfrey’s call for transformation and innovation within libraries to meet the demands of our digital age is timely. It may be a little idealistic but it is just the sort of vision libraries need. ( )
  ryantlaferney87 | Dec 8, 2023 |
Great overview of the library's present and future. I do think the author idealizes librarians too much, though. I also wish some more radical ideas were presented. ( )
  matsuko | Aug 17, 2023 |
Dated. Quick read. ( )
  bardbooks | Nov 11, 2021 |
Thank you. Thank you for this book. Thank you for writing a book that so many people need to read to understand what libraries and librarians are going through, what obstacles we face on a daily basis. The money we need to become better . Everyone needs to read this book and do their part in helping us transform our libraries into the current and future centuries. ( )
  Starla_Aurora | Oct 29, 2018 |
Libraries as platforms! John Palfrey! Read it you'll be glad you did.
  open-leadership | Jan 24, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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Language Arts. Nonfiction. HTML:

Libraries today are more important than ever. More than just book repositories, libraries can become bulwarks against some of the most crucial challenges of our age: unequal access to education, jobs, and information.
In BiblioTech, educator and technology expert John Palfrey argues that anyone seeking to participate in the 21st century needs to understand how to find and use the vast stores of information available online. And libraries, which play a crucial role in making these skills and information available, are at risk. In order to survive our rapidly modernizing world and dwindling government funding, libraries must make the transition to a digital future as soon as possibleâ??by digitizing print material and ensuring that born-digital material is publicly available online.
Not all of these changes will be easy for libraries to implement. But as Palfrey boldly argues, these modifications are vital if we hope to save libraries and, through them, the American democratic ideal.

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