INFO SCIENCE:It's always nice to see a professor you like in the news. I took Dr. Janes' single-credit Google Class a few quarters back and had a great time. He's a very engaging speaker and the course was a lot of fun. Today he's quoted in a New York Times article: Old Search Engine, the Library, Tries to Fit Into a Google World.
"The nature of discovery is changing," said Joseph Janes, associate professor and chairman of library and information science at the University of Washington. "I think the digital revolution and the use of digital resources in general is really the beginning of a change in the way humanity thinks and presents itself."
Yet for every archive that has become searchable by commercial Web engines, scores are not accessible. "There's lots of great stuff that isn't available digitally and likely never will be," Dr. Janes said. Most books published before 1995 fit into this category, he said, as do many older magazines, newspapers and journals, as well as historical maps, archives, letters, diaries, older census statistics and genealogical materials.
"We have to figure out how to adapt to a world where people will prefer digital stuff," Dr. Janes said, "yet not forgo the investment in print and analog collections and the work involved in mapping and maintaining those collections."
Dr. Janes said that, like many others, he occasionally pined for the days spent in musty library stacks, where one could chance upon scholarly gems by browsing the shelves.
"You can think of electronic research as a more impoverished experience," Dr. Janes said. "But in some ways it's a richer one, because you have so much more access to so much more information. The potential is there for this to be a real bonus to humanity, because we can see more and read more and do more with it. But it is going to be very different in lots of ways."
I would hope he's wrong about a lot of older print resources never being made available in digital format. Book scanners, text recognition, and digital storage technologies are all getting cheaper and a lot of older and more arcane materials will come online eventually. There are also projects like Project Gutenberg that seek to bring older texts online the old fashioned way: data entry.
There's good reason to believe this eventually may come about. Just look at music: the greatest music library in the history of humankind is now available online via peer-to-peer services (albeit in violation of old-fashioned copyright law).