Memory Institutions


Kim H. Veltman

"The Evolution of Libraries in the Digital Age”

Access, Toronto, vol. 3, no. 3, Spring 1997, pp. 9-11.
This is an abstract from the full paper: “New Roles for Libraries in the Digital Age", Toronto: Ontario Library Association, pp. 1-13.

T H E     E V O L U T I O N     O F     L I B R A R I E S

In The Digital Age

A revolution is underway. It is inevitably linked with computers, the Internet, the Intranet and now the Extranet. Some see these developments as a new panacea. Some have gained fame by decrying this socalled Silicon snake oil. Others raise questions whether we can ever afford the process. With respect to libraries, some predict that digitizing collections will make them obsolete.

Memory storage capacities are expanding enormously. In 1950, IBM's Rama C tape contained 4.4 megabytes and IBM was able to store 50 of such tapes together. That meant that 220 megabytes represented the frontier. In contrast, many of today's personal computers begin with a gigabyte of storage, more than four times the IBM capacity, and two gigabyte discs are on the market. However, it is sobering to remember that full motion video in uncompressed form requires one gigabyte per minute and that the 83 minutes of Snow White digitized in full colour amount to 15 terabytes of space. Fortunately new technologies are on their way. Holograms, sugar cube storage and ion etching offer a range of new possibilities. These developments are transforming how libraries operate and fulfill their roles.

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