The historical role of the research library was to accumulate recorded knowledge in order to serve future as well as present needs. This has been severely affected by the growth in scholarly publishing, especially in science, greatly increased numbers of users, and relatively reduced funding. Other influencing factors are the emphasis on short‐term gains, the constant search for novelty, and social obsolescence. University libraries, struggling to maintain basic services, have to prove cost‐effectiveness, to try to earn money, and in general to be more narrowly functional; their staff need to reflect this change. Ways of continuing to serve eternal values include centres of excellence and co‐operative acquisition and preservation, but these alone are unlikely to provide a solution. It has to be recognised that most university libraries cannot aim at “eternal” collections, but service to education is also an eternal value.
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