The Enduring Library: Technology, Tradition and the Quest for Balance

Mae Keary (Scott‐Keary Consultants)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Article publication date: 1 August 2004




Keary, M. (2004), "The Enduring Library: Technology, Tradition and the Quest for Balance", Online Information Review, Vol. 28 No. 4, pp. 312-313.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This is a very readable book that deals with a thought‐provoking subject. It suggests ways of achieving a balance between the constant development of new technology and the traditions of library service. It looks at the effect of computer technology on libraries and raises questions on the use of that technology. From this, it suggests ways of achieving a new librarianship that combines history with modernity in service to our users, society and posterity.

The thinking behind this book is that, in order to understand the impact of technology on society and libraries, we need to have a clear view of the history and evolution of communications technology. Throughout the ages technology has had a transformational impact on society. Our understanding of these previous transformations can help us to deal rationally with the present.

Gorman starts by looking at where libraries stand today, the opportunities and hazards facing them. This is followed by a survey of communication technologies from the 1870s to the recent past; questions at that time about new techniques, methods and applications of machinery are similar to the ones we raise today. In his portrait of that technology today and the immediate future Gorman shows how libraries are being pulled in opposing directions.

He is disappointed in the way that the skills of literacy and reading are being diminished in the rush to exploit the digital world, and, although he sees the Web as an important innovation, in his view it lacks a recognised taxonomy for identifying its worthwhile elements. Collection development, reference work and cataloguing are examined in the light of current circumstances.

The next chapter is concerned with the challenges of the future, in which Gorman discusses the five we face in this information age:

  1. 1.


  2. 2.


  3. 3.


  4. 4.


  5. 5.


These are used to illustrate the nature of electronic communication and its inherent shortcomings. For his research agenda he looks at what he considers to be the real problems confronting libraries, librarians and library users today. These include:
  • preservation;

  • bibliographical control;

  • scholarly communication;

  • electronic publishing; and

  • the state of library education.

The last chapter deals with information overload and its accompanying stress as barriers to the acquisition of knowledge and learning. Gorman suggests a cure through seeking harmony and balance and proposes an ethic of librarianship that may help to resolve our future dilemmas. This book offers a practical and realistic insight into modern communications technology by showing that the gap between the hugely inflated claims and reality is wide, widening and unbridgeable.

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