Challenges for Libraries Amidst a Digital Revolution
As the world continues to grow around us continuously and we move closer and closer into a more deep and fascinating technological age, its no surprise that the impact of this progression has affected libraries tenfold. We have continuously seen a revolution in libraries, as Al-Suqri describes that we “are witnessing a transformation from traditional libraries to hybrid libraries (providing access to both digital as well as print…)” (Al-Suqri, 2007). Just within my own experience, I work at a medical school that has forgone the physical aspect of the library for the most part, now mostly being identifiable as a digital library rather than a traditional/physical library. While the impact of the digital boom and revolution in front of us has led to a lot of positives: being able to access information from the comfort of our own home, accessing data and information that was located in areas we could only have dreamed of accessing, etc; it is not perfect. For both the librarians and the public, there are further complications that in a way have arised due to the new technological boom that has come from digitization. Breeding states it eloquently, proclaiming that the new digital age and revolution “has dramatically increased the complexity of the work that takes place in libraries and the technology needed to support that work.” (Breeding, 2010). With concepts to worry about such as privacy, copyright, loss and mis-preservation of digital only files, there are quite a few caveats and boulders that I believe still need to be overcome and addressed.
For this discussion, I’d like to briefly discuss what I think one of the biggest challenges that has come from the new digital frontier. That is of course, related to the possible fear of losing / being unable to archive born-digital documents. Born-digital documents are what is considered a form of document that is started and ends within most, if not all of it taking place within the digital world. This has become more and more prevalent with our digital age and more people communicating online versus in person or through other forms of older communication like writing letters. With email and online messaging becoming more and more of the norm for passing correspondence, drafts of research papers, etc. some of these documents and chats could be forever lost to time without anyone ever backing up what was in there. Jaillant also states some more risks that come from this new precedent, from “rapidly changing formats and technologies…” to privacy concerns, stating some countries like the UK have to restrict to harsher regulations that “restrict access, instead of sharing…” (Jaillant, 2019).
This is just a small scratch of the surface of some issues that libraries will continue to have to battle and overcome. With the inclusion of other issues such as making copyright protection, privacy issues, making sure digital patrons are given equal access compared to patrons who can physically visit, there are quite a few things that this new digital revolution has brought to libraries that have become more of a hinderance than a benefit. I believe Sapp and Van Epps said it best at the end of their paper regarding equal access, stating that tackling all these hurdles are “equitably numerous, challenging, frustrating, rewarding, and ultimately will lead libraries in new directions of service.” (Sapp, 2006). As long as the libraries continue to push forward more and more, I believe that these issues will become a thing of the past and we will continue to watch and see digital and hybrid libraries thrive and grow.
Al-Suqri Waseem Afzal, Mohammed Nasser. (2007). Digital age: Challenges for libraries. Information, Society and Justice Journal, 1(1), 43–48.
Breeding, M. (2010). Architecting New Library Frameworks. Computers in Libraries, 30(8), 32–34.
Jaillant, L. (2019). After the digital revolution: working with emails and born-digital records in literary and publishers’ archives. The Journal of the Australian Society of Archivists Inc.,
Sapp, M., & Van Epps, A. S. (2006). Equal Access: What does the digital revolution mean for library web sites? Science & Technology Libraries, 26(3–4), 157–173.