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The Future of the Library

From Electric Media to Digital Media

Series:

Robert K. Logan and Marshall McLuhan

Originally written in the late 1970s, this book was untouched for more than 35 years. McLuhan passed away before it went to press, but Logan always intended to finish it. Even though much has changed in the three decades since work on the project was halted, many of the points that McLuhan and Logan made in the era of ‘electric media’ are highly cogent in the era of ‘digital media.’
Looking at the future of the library from the perspective of McLuhan’s original vision, Logan has carefully updated the text to address the impact of the Internet and other digital technologies on the library. McLuhan prophetically foreshadowed the transformative effect that computing would have on «mass library organization,» saying it would become obsolescent. It is perhaps no coincidence that a key theme of the book is that libraries must strive to create context given today’s hyper information overload. The authors believe this task can be achieved by putting together a compact library of books providing an overview of human culture and scholarship.
This book is based on the original text that McLuhan and Logan wrote. Logan’s updates are integrated in the main text and clearly identified by markers. This preserves the flow of the original text and at the same time provides updates in the context of the original study. Other significant updates include two new chapters: Chapter 6 provides a LOM (Laws of the Media) treatment of the new post-McLuhan digital media, and Chapter 7 discusses the impact of these media on today’s library. A second part to the concluding Chapter has been added to update some of the conclusions reached in 1979, and there is also a new preface.
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Chapter 7. The Impact of Digital Technology on the Library

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THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY ON THE LIBRARY

When assessing the impact of electric mass media and the mainframe computer on the library in chapter 5, we made it a point to understand how these media affected the ground in which the library operated. I will do the same in assessing the impact of digital media on the library because the figure of the library has not changed radically from the way in which it was first organized. It is still an institution that preserves the culture of its society. The ground of the library operating today in the digital age has changed once again because of the pervasive use of digital media. In chapter 5 McLuhan and I claim that the library “has to a certain degree lost its sense of purpose, direction, and identity precisely because it has lost touch with its ground, the hidden effects of media.” I do not believe that is any longer the case today as librarians and libraries have made great strides to incorporate digital media into their operations. That being said there are still issues that need to be addressed. The focus in the era of electric mass media was on information but that focus has now shifted to knowledge in the digital era and as a result the library needs to step up its function as an educational institution in the new digital age, which is perhaps better styled as the knowledge...

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