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D-Lib Magazine
September 2006

Volume 12 Number 9

ISSN 1082-9873

Preserving Information, Not Formats

A recent article [1] in The Chronicle of Higher Education discusses how library renovation at California State Polytechnic University is causing consternation among some of the university's professors and library staff, because the renovation has resulted in the need to eliminate large quantities of print material in favor of online materials. The article presents thoughtful and reasoned arguments on both sides of the debate about the changes, but nevertheless, the changes are taking place. The important question is this: What needs to be done to make sure that the changes do not result in a serious decline in services?

If a print book has not circulated for years, it doesn't mean that the information it contains is no longer of use. But if the book were digitized, could the information it contains be communicated as adequately in electronic format, and would the digitized version be as reliably preserved as the print version? And if the book were retained in print format, would that ensure that its information would be communicated to those who need it, when they need it?

Because the answers to those questions will vary depending on the situation, deciding what to discard, what to digitize or what to retain in print requires careful consideration.

In many ways, dealing with materials that have existed solely in digital format is easier than contemplating what to do with print materials for which there is no longer space or budget available for maintenance. In the end, however, the critical consideration is how to preserve the information, not the format in which it exists.

Bonita Wilson


[1] Carlson, Scott. "Library Renovation Leads to Soul Searching at Cal Poly: Professors and librarians complain about a shift from print to online materials." The Chronicle of Higher Education, September 1, 2006.

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