During my very exciting talk at Computers In Libraries last week, I made a statement specific to the conversation we were having, that certainly has the potential to be taken and misunderstood in other contexts. The conversation was about what will libraries be if the books go away? if the physical, shelved content that is often perceived to be “library” goes away.
In that context, I said it doesn’t matter if we own the content or not, we will continue to do what we have always done, which is to facilitate access to content. Libraries have relied upon networks to share resources not locally owned for ages, and we can happily continue to do so. None of us needs to own it all.
Within this context, our ownership or not of the content does not matter.
In other contexts, it matters a great deal
The future of libraries is of course a complicated thing, a Hope diamond of facets of possibility. And, as Margret Mead said, we shape that future with the decisions we make today. I was looking at one set of decisions –are we a library if there aren’t physical artifacts? (and I say, yes. Hell yes. Of course. And went on in detail as to why i believe that to be a self-evident truth
Can we be a library if we don’t own content, but only lease and license?
That’s a very different question.
And the answer is no. I want to go on the record. If the question is to own vs. license or lease, we must own. We must stop licensing and leasing. And if we feel compelled and declare we must keep leasing and licensing, we must stop sacrificing our budgets on half-hearted ill-suited mission-destructive licenses as if we were buying.
In the context of perpetuity, and in the context of first sale: We. Must. Own.
In the context of my ownership or yours, in the context of interlibrary lending and loaning agreements, my ownership does not define me as a a library, not does yours. We can happily library in a shared collection environment. A shared collection of content we as libraries own.