How digital streaming and licensing change the role of the librarian

August 26, 2014

2 recently published articles consider the impact of technology on college and university libraries. In a piece for University World News, philosopher Martin Cohen argues that “real books have become relics, fit for glass cases.” For the next generation of students, Cohen says, “an amorphous mass of websites is already replacing core and set texts.” In this setting, algorithms have replaced subject matter experts. Cohen urges a healthy skepticism toward what he characterizes as “out of control” change, noting that the Internet tends toward monopoly and centralized control. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, meanwhile, focuses on how streaming media could affect libraries. Steve Kolowich says that the era of content licensing is turning more power over to publishers, but is increasingly becoming the norm as digital copies replace physical media. Rather than owning a physical copy of an item that can be loaned out at will, libraries buy permission to access a file for a set period of time. This can result in higher costs to libraries, as well as putting companies rather than the libraries themselves in charge of content stewardship. University World News | The Chronicle of Higher Education