Show Less
Restricted access

The Future of the Library

From Electric Media to Digital Media


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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Original 1979 Preface


This is the original preface McLuhan and Logan wrote sometime in 1979, to which has been added the mention of the two new chapters 6 and 7.

In part I (chapters 1–3), we develop the tools of media study, drawing upon McLuhan’s earlier work. This section also contains historical sketches of the development of the alphabet, literature, and the library, using the tools of media study.

Part II (chapters 4–7) examines the effects of modern technology and information overload on the contemporary library. The impact on the library of the media of electronic telecommunications and the new information environment they create is also studied {including in chapters 6 and 7 the new digital media that McLuhan never had a chance to witness}. In view of the changed environment in which the library now functions, it is necessary to rethink and redefine the notion of the library. The future of the library, while constrained to a certain extent by its technology and social context, will be determined by what librarians wish it to become.

In part III (chapters 8–12), we outline the directions for the future development of the library that we would like to see occur. Our proposals include the incorporation of the oral tradition in the libraries’ activities, the return to human scale, and the creation of and widespread dissemination of the ← ix | x → compact library, a collection of approximately 2,000 volumes that survey and review all...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.