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LC 21: A Digital Strategy for the Library of Congress
came to be identified not only with the collections they assiduously gathered but also with the wide and free access they gave readers pursuing personal, social, and public-minded goals. Libraries became the places where citizens of modest means could access books and other materials they could never afford to purchase. Libraries became, as well, places of learning and interaction for their readers. The special status of libraries is attested to by the fact that their communities support them with funding and other resources. As well, the copyright law of the United States recognized the role of libraries in serving and educating the public.1
By the 1990s, the development of computers and the networks and protocols that link them together (particularly the World Wide Web protocol developed by Tim Berners-Lee) and then the browsers that were needed to navigate this interconnected world had led to new ways of capturing intellectual creativity and distributing it widely and almost instantaneously to those who sought it. This revolution challenges the traditional role of libraries in contemporary and future society. The computer’s transformation of our world and the upheavals it fosters rival or exceed those that grew out of the development of the printing press in the fifteenth century. It is worth taking a few moments to enumerate some of the recent changes that affect libraries and their service to users, even if we merely skim the peaks and omit much.2 This chapter describes some aspects of the rapidly changing, new, untested, and exciting environment for libraries today. The leaders and managers of the libraries of the present must understand and master this environment if they are to find ways to continue to fulfill the purpose of libraries past and to carry out their mission.
The Need for Cooperation Among Libraries
Libraries have always made information available. From the earliest days, they housed and facilitated access to information, through the selection, aggregation, organization, service, and ongoing care of their materi-
In particular, Section 109 of the copyright law (contained in Title 17 of the United States Code), under the so-called first-sale doctrine, permits libraries to lend materials, even outside their premises, and Section 108 exempts certain reproductions and distributions of copyrighted works conducted by libraries under specific conditions.
For recent discussions of the larger cultural issues, see Future Libraries, Howard R. Bloch and Carla Hesse, eds., (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1995) or a special issue of the journal Representations, Spring 1993; also, see Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace, by James J. O’Donnell (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).