they are often viewed as uninviting, cold vaults filled with row
after row of shelves burgeoning with weighty tomes, libraries are
really dynamic, growing information centers that provide access
to current materials as well as archiving materials for posterity.
Beehives of activity, libraries of today often sport row after row
of computer workstations in addition to their book and multimedia
storage. Trained professionals make themselves available to assist
library users in finding materials in many formats, from print materials,
to audio, to video, to Web pages. The image of the fussy librarian
was never an accurate one, but it is even farther from the truth
now, as librarians have become information specialists who move
nearly as quickly as the technology that they've come to embrace.
As technology has driven the growth of the Internet and fueled the
information explosion, it has also driven libraries' growth.
has also made it possible for libraries to begin providing users
with "virtual" services. Although still in the developmental
stages, virtual libraries may one day offer researchers the ability
to access any information they desire, anywhere in the world, at
any time they need it. This will include articles from e-journals
and e-newspapers as well as entire e-books, movies, recordings,
and other mixed media resources.
Much of this
is already happening. Academic libraries and large public libraries
are already partnering with publishers to provide virtual resources
to their users. It's merely a matter of time before technology is
so reliable, access times so good, and stored information so exhaustive
that researchers will be able to sit in their homes or offices and
read, see, and hear what they want with or without the assistance
of virtual librarians.