The first 30 years of the internet through the lens of an academic library

Beth Sandore Namachchivaya (University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, USA)

Library Hi Tech

ISSN: 0737-8831

Publication date: 16 November 2012



This paper aims to examine how the internet both precipitated and facilitated significant shifts for academic libraries in the kinds of services they provide, and the ways in which they provide access to content. It aims to view this evolution from the perspective of one academic library in an institution that has been at the center of internet and technology development worldwide for over 30 years, the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign.


The first 30 years of the internet in libraries are explored in decade time segments. Each of the three decades is characterized by significant and unique internet developments. Key internet‐based innovations in libraries are explored, in the areas of service, digital libraries, search and discovery. The reasons for the relative impact of these innovations are explored and discussed.


The internet is both foundation and incubator for myriad new social, technical, organizational and legal constructs, including policy and best practices, governance, intellectual property, whole new categories of services, industries, and areas of research. Since diverse stakeholders can participate with little or no investment, the pace of growth and innovation is unpredictable. This pace is sustained over time, occurring on multiple levels. For this reason, the internet does not “grow” simply in one direction, such as exponential user growth, or the systematic installation of infrastructure. In the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign, the internet has fundamentally altered, and continues to enable significant shifts in the direction of the library's programs, services and resources.


This paper contributes to a group of invited papers that addresses the first 30 years of the internet in libraries.



Sandore Namachchivaya, B. (2012), "The first 30 years of the internet through the lens of an academic library", Library Hi Tech, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 623-642.

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