Exciting forum at ALA Annual

The forum Strategic Future of Print Collections attracted over 300 librarians. The forum was produced by Debbie Noland, Library Binding Institute, and Gary Frost, University of Iowa, and was sponsored by the Preservation and Reformatting  sub group and the Rare Books and Manuscripts sub group of the American Library Association. The program featured three presentations offering three perspectives on print delivery in a context of digital technologies.

Walt Crawford, commentator on role of libraries in society, offered an overview of the current dynamic use of print and screen resources in research libraries. He suggested that libraries promote “inclusionary” or “multiplatform” reading that combines use of print and screen resources. He also projects such interplay into the future; “We don’t know how interdependence (of print and screen) will play out – but can guess that all-digital is an inherently unlikely future except as an ideological assertion.”

Shannon Zachary, preservation librarian at the University of Michigan, described the intensive interaction of print and screen resources caused by Google Print reformatting. This processing has features of selection and de-selection that indicates a continuing role for print in a context of digital delivery. While Google reformatting of print books exponentially improves access there is more conflicted appraisal of the preservation implications. As with microfilm conversion, digital conversion progresses in context with a continuing role for print.

Doug Nishimura, senior researcher at IPI, continued a theme of interplay between print and digital technologies. He discussed how print on demand books enabled by digital sources and electrostatic printing promises to project the role of print far into the future. Research at the Image Permanence Institute is assessing the digital printing technologies and evolving diagnostic tools for performance and permanence of print on demand books.

The program proved very cohesive and conveyed a consensus across the wide perspectives presented. This consensus was that there is a digital future for print in libraries collections as both screen access, digital book manufacturing technologies and print reading all invigorate the future of books. A lively discussion concluded the forum and follow-up materials and bibliography will be available at an LBI web portal.