The Impact of New Technology on Library Services, 1983
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the impact of new technology on library services at the outset let me establish my lack of credentials you are going to hear about the impact of new technology on library services from someone who is neither a technologist nor a librarian i am a physician by training an administrator by experience and by providence divine or otherwise the director of the national library of medicine thus my credentials are strictly ex cathedra like those of a bishop discoursing on conjugal relations since the early nineteen-sixties the national library of medicine has been a leader in applying computer and communications technology to improving access to biomedical information as a result there is a remarkable reservoir of specialized talent within the library i would like to acknowledge that any expertise i display in matters of technology is largely borrowed from this staff and especially from mr charles m goldstein chief of the information technology branch libraries by tradition and etymology have been concerned with books increasingly however we see ourselves not as collectors storers and disseminators of published works but as providing access to information this information may be in books and journals but it also may be in microform videocassettes videodiscs and in computer files at the national library of medicine we have large collections of data that exist only in computerized form with no printed presented at the 1983 joint conference on scholarly communication around the world philadelphia pa may 16 1983 by martin m cummings m.d director national library of medicine

Page  2 2 counterpart our patrons seek information and as long as this information is available rapidly and conveniently they do not appear to be concerned about the format in which we provide it i will not take the time today to describe in any detail our past accomplishments in applying computer technology to handling large volumes of biomedical information suffice it to say that this technology has come to the aid of virtually all our library processing activities — from selecting and ordering the literature to indexing and cataloging it and to making the resulting bibliographic information available worldwide i am sure many of you are familiar with our successful medlars online system for disseminating accurate and up-to-date bibliographic information today there are some 2500 health-science and other institutions around the world that utilize the medlars databases to serve the information needs of their professional clientele these users annually conduct some two and a half million bibliographic searches of nlm's data files remote searching of large centralized online databases however is old technology this morning i'd like to acquaint you with what the future may have in store for libraries in attempting to assess the potential impact of new technology on libraries it will be helpful to identify the relevant technologies as well as the specific information services to be affected the two most salient technologies in the near future are the microcomputer and laser technologies microcomputers of course are already in widespread use

Page  3 3 and will increasingly be found in every facet of library service and information use from the inception of a document word processing to the delivery and manipulation of full text in personal computers under the term laser technologies are found high resolution digital scanning optical disc storage and computer-driven laser printing prototype systems to use the first two — digital scanning and optical disc storage — are being developed by the library of congress and the national library of medicine computer-driven laser printing which is commercially available is already in daily use at nlm the application of these technologies has tremendous potential not only for biomedical communications but for all library and information services i will briefly describe several possible applications the first has to do with that most basic and traditional library function — archival storage it will soon be possible to achieve prospective preservation — that is capturing and storing the printed literature in machine-readable form in a permanent medium at the time of publication rather than waiting until after damage by flood mold or bookworms or more likely until after the inevitable deterioration of the paper has become evident one videodisc will store 100,000 pages of text — the total annual output of some 100 scientific journals or 100 large monographic volumes a second application is what is called demand publication by which we mean the ability to retrieve documents stored in a digital form and reprinted on demand with a quality comparable to the original

Page  4 4 another is the electronic journal serial literature which will exist and be delivered exclusively in an electronic format a number of important scientific publishers are now experimenting with this type of publication driven by the seemingly inexorable rise in conventional publishing costs as electronic access becomes more common the number of journals printed on paper will decrease behooving users as well as librarians to learn how to search the new electronic publications the advent of electronic journals will pose some interesting problems for indexing copyright ownership and the traditional concept of library services the delivery of randomly accessible graphics via optical videodiscs is another potential application such graphics capability will make feasible the concept of online encyclopedias that contain not only text color plates and halftones but also randomly accessible audiovisual motion sequences under the control of the viewer it will provide a powerful new approach for health-science education for example in teaching radiology and those content areas that require the use of a microscope there is the exciting possibility of replicating billions of characters of scientific information on digitally encoded optical discs and then providing low cost copies to local regional and national information centers at the present time it costs about $2500 to produce a master disc copies can be made in quantity for about $10 per disc one potential application of this technology would allow the entire medline file some 800,000 references from the last three to four years to be stored on two or three videodiscs the databases could then be made available inexpensively for use on equipment at local institutions obviating the need to pay telephone line charges to search and retrieve references from a remote central computer

Page  5 5 beyond the technology per se there is a subtle and pervasive change to be discerned in our attitudes towards its use alvin toffler observed in his book the third wave the essence of second wave manufacture was the long run of millions of identical standardized products by contrast the essence of third wave manufacture is the short run of partially or completely customized products 1 it is a short extrapolation from completely customized products to providing the tools that allow the information seeker to do what previously was the domain of specialists this is an important lesson to be learned from the personal computer phenomenon now literally tens of thousands of users who had to rely on others to model financial strategies for example or to maintain their general ledger or payroll systems are using such customized programing tools daily on their personal computers what will be the effect of these new applications on libraries how will demand publication electronic journals randomly accessible graphics and mass storage on optical videodisc affect an institution that for centuries has been geared to the published literature just as important what impact will they have on the user regardless of how technology impacts the format of information and the technical operation of libraries i believe the traditional role of the library as a permanent archive of recorded knowledge will remain basically unchanged libraries will continue to perform their traditional

Page  6 6 functions of organizing information into meaningful classifications providing assistance for locating information and serving as a source of material for scholarly efforts although the influence of the private sector will be crucial in how technology will affect libraries — for example in demand publishing and electronic journals — it is unlikely that the private commercial sector would be interested in becoming our national archives nor should that responsibility be vested in them the private sector can at most be expected to support the demand publication of current articles and/or text in digital form only as long as there is a return on investment nor can the publishers of journals in electronic format be expected to organize knowledge beyond the aggregation of volumes of their own journals while collecting and providing access to the published literature have been mandates of libraries for several centuries they have until today involved printed text in either hard copy or microform libraries of the future on the other hand will be required to provide increasing access to machine-readable information as well as computer-based tools to aid in the production of derivative products there will be three sources for these materials the first involves high-resolution digital facsimile scanning of the printed page and the storing of this information on a medium such as the optical videodisc i mentioned the potential of this technology earlier and i believe within ten years we will see its widespread application in libraries both for archival storage and for demand publication of articles

Page  7 7 the second source is the machine-readable publication tapes now used by most publishers in the computer-assisted preparation of their products unfortunately the lack of a universally accepted standard among publishers for these tapes poses on obstacle to their use as an information source for libraries nevertheless they too should be archived by libraries and made available for scholarly research they could if appropriately used provide the basis for automated indexing and abstracting of the literature in support of the secondary sources which provide access to the actual documents incidentally it is to the publishers credit that they have recognized the need to establish bibliographic and technical standards for electronic publication and have begun to cooperate with libraries for this purpose the third source of machine-readable information will be the electronic journals those published not in the usual hard copy form we know today but available only online although there is concern that such journals may not undergo the traditional rigorous peer review process it is clear that this will be overcome and that such journals will soon be appearing libraries will need to subscibe to have access to their text and graphics in addition to the need to acquire a greater number of intelligent terminals to support patron access libraries also will need to enter into new types of contractual arrangements with publishers for access and use of primary as well as secondary literature how will all this benefit the library user the rapid growth of online bibliographic services in the 1970's and the more recent phenomenon of online full-text databases are a foretaste of what the future holds among some of the full-text databases of the eighties are the american academic encyclopedia the new york times and a number of scholarly and other journals

Page  8 8 the present full text databases are just that full text online it is true that much research is being pursued in the area of artificial intelligence as applied to information processes some of this research is oriented toward medical decision making so far however little progress is being made toward organizing and synthesizing encyclopedic knowledge for improved online access in addition to full-text and bibliographic databases there is also a growing number of numeric databases mostly in the physical sciences and engineering one exception in the biomedical area is nlm's toxicology data bank in the near future other health-science related numeric databases modeled after the tdb are certain to follow including several now being developed by nlm in the area of hazardous waste materials what is beyond providing merely access to online information sources the next logical step is to develop tools that will allow library patrons to use online information more effectively one would be the capability to have rapid and convenient access from a single terminal to many diverse databases offered by many diverse systems another will be the capability to compile local or personal files of pertinent information that are carved out of the large central information sources like nlm this downloading ses are just that fuses are just that full text online it is true that much research is being pursued in the area of artificial intelligence as applied to information processes some of this research is oriented toward medical decision making so far however little progress is being made toward organizing and synthesizing encyclopedic knowledge for improved online access in addition to full-text and bibliographic databases there is also a growing number of numeric databases mostly in the physical sciences and engineering one exception in the biomedical area is nlm's toxicology data bank in the near future other health-science related numeric databases modeled after the tdb are certain to follow including several now being developed by nlm in the area of hazardous waste materials what is beyond providing merely access to online information sources the next logical step is to develop tools that will allow library patrons to use online information more effectively one would be the capability to have rapid and convenient access from a single terminal to many diverse databases offered by many diverse systems another will be the capability to compile local or personal files of pertinent information that are carved out of the large central information sources like nlm this downloading ses are just that full text online it is true that much research is being pursued in the area of artificial intelligence as applied to information processes some of this research is oriented toward medical decision making so far however little progress is being made toward organizing and synthesizing encyclopedic knowledge for improved online access in addition to full-text and bibliographic databases there is also a growing number of numeric databases mostly in the physical sciences and engineering one exception in the biomedical area is nlm's toxicology data bank in the near future other health-science related numeric databases modeled after the tdb are certain to follow including several now being developed by nlm in the area of hazardous waste materials what is beyond providing merely access to online information sources the next logical step is to develop tools that will allow library patrons to use online information more effectively one would be the capability to have rapid and convenient access from a single terminal to many diverse databases offered by many diverse systems another will be the capability to compile local or personal files of pertinent information that are carved out of the large central information sources like nlm this downloading as it is called

Page  9 9 will pose questions of policy as to what is fair use and what would constitute excessive downloading to the detriment of the mother system one application of the concept of downloading is to create subsets of nlm's medline file which correspond to the serials collection of a local medical library this has been successfully demonstrated in a system called paperchase at beth israel hospital in boston and at the georgetown medical library with a system called mini-medline o a third capability already alluded to will be the capability for a scientist or scholar to select and store articles or extracts from full-text and numeric databases while there may be no argument as to the general value of tools such as these there is the question as to whether they are best provided via a centralized system or in a distributed manner both will probably be required there will be thousands of scientists scholars and other library patrons who will obtain local or personal computers in the coming years but thousands of distributed systems that are incompatible with each other will not allow the most effective use of information still less if they are incompatible with the central sources of information if however the central sources can provide a reasonable model soon then the acquisition of local capabilities can be guided and a near optimun interaction between central and distributed systems can be achieved

Page  10 10 even in the case of distributed data on optical disc or other inexpensive mass storage media a central facility will still be required to create and maintain the original databases regardless of the distributed nature of a given corpus of information there will always exist needs that will be best served by a network link to central sources in closing let me say that the impact of new technology on libraries although it will be extensive will not be as confusing as you may have perhaps found these few remarks optical digital videodiscs distributed processing downloading electronic journals prospective preservation —are nothing more than current jargon for what will soon be commonplace in our libraries we even have a roadmap to guide us from where we are in biomedical communications to where we hope to be in the near future this is the thoughtful study conducted by the association of american medical colleges with the imposing title academic information in the academic health sciences center roles for the library in information management this report not only examines the implications of new information technologies but it sets out a blueprint for constructing an integrated matrix of information services to serve the varied needs of health professionals in academic settings the spectrum of information to be managed by these academic centers is very broad including access to databases outside the library access to library and subject-specific bibliographic databases and access to knowledge-based systems the report identifies a central role for the academic health science centers themselves of course but

Page  11 11 equally important it identifies important roles for professional associations industry and public institutions i can assure you that this report will not be consigned to that crowded shelf reserved for well-intentioned but ineffectual studies commissioned by the government the nlm is committed to funding several prototype integrated information systems in academic health settings and we have high hopes that they will have a profound effect on biomedical communications in the coming decades finally i should point out that the advances in technology discussed here are not in question new products services and capabilities are constantly being announced what we require are solutions to the difficult and complex intellectual problems of how to use this technology to develop systems that provide answers to questions rather than citations or references when we have learned how to better organize knowledge for ready assimilation and utilization and applied our technology to systems of effective information transfer scholarly communications will enter a new era thank you

Page  12 12 references 1 toffler alvin the third wave new york morrow 1980 p 197