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OCR for page 425
COMMUNICATION IN THE LIFE SCIENCES to their peers critical, in-depth indexing and synthesis of information. Similar considerations apply to other specialized information centers, e.g., in toxicology, vascular disease, and human genetic pedigrees. A single national computer network is, as yet, rather remote, and the interim growth of specialized information centers to meet clearly defined and societally significant needs is strongly encouraged. LIBRARIES Libraries are overwhelmed by the abundance of scientific literature. Pur- chase, bibliographic, and maintenance costs and sheer physical shelf space make it almost impossible for any single facility to house all the available material. The increasing gap between production and acquisition of mate- rials, bibliographic deficiencies, and the mechanical obstacles to sharing resources among libraries are also handicaps. Improved technology for inexpensive reproduction and dissemination of literature could greatly facilitate the sharing of resources among libraries. The New York Public Library and the National Library of Medicine main- tain their reference collections intact and allow no interlibrary loans, to ensure availability of documents. Other libraries have indulged so freely in interlibrary loans that their own shelves are seriously depleted of refer- ence material. Inexpensive copying, coupled with clarification of copyright laws in relation to such reproduction, could solve many problems. Better dissemination of information concerning the availability of bibliographic materials would be quite helpful. A most useful development would be agreements to assign specific re- sponsibilities to particular libraries, each of which would acquire extensively in its designated areas, organize and publish bibliographies, and provide lending or photocopy services, patently an extension of the specialized information center concept. The national libraries of agriculture and medi- cine are successful examples of this approach. If major academic libraries concentrated individually on agreed-upon subdivisions of the life sciences (plant physiology, taxonomy, environmental biology, ecology, etc.) while maintaining their general collections, the needs of the scientific community could be much more adequately served than at present. Most importantly, while new forms of communication are evolving and the nature of the science library is in transition, existing libraries are facing grave financial difficulties. All but a few urgently require funds for construction, for acquisitions, shelving, computer systems, desk consoles for use with microfiche, staff, and related necessities. We recommend that the three primary federal agencies that must accept responsibility for the