Introduction to Library and Information Science/Annotation of Smith, Abby. "The Future of the Past: Preservation in American Research Libraries."

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Smith, Abby. The Future of the Past: Preservation in American Research Libraries. 1999. [Online] Available at www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub82/pub82text.html. (Accessed January 29, 2006.)

Rapidly-deteriorating materials create an urgent need to focus on preservation, particularly in research libraries. Problems of selection are best answered by a team of both librarians and scholars, who employ criteria that is three-fold: collection-, subject-, and usage-based. Problems of medium, on the other hand, are more subjective. Microfilm is quite stable and durable, but access is somewhat limited. Digitization, while alleviating access problems, poses concerns about cost, instability, and hardware and software change. In the end, Smith advocates a preservation strategy that includes a combination of microfilm and digital storage. Smith’s argument is compelling not only for the urgency to preserve items in research libraries, but for the insistence to use methods that encompass multiple criteria strategies and multiple mediums. To be sure, funding for this multi-pronged approach is unanswered, but Smith’s ideas in action will help ensure the selection of a broad scope of scholarly works for preservation in forms that meet researchers’ needs of integrity and accessibility. However digital storage perhaps has more potential now. For instance, some problems of cost and changing technology can be mitigated by storing documents on, say, a one-terabyte hard drive. Drive size has certainly come down in cost since 1999, and a hard drive will not become obsolete as quickly as many removable formats. Moreover, accessibility may be benefited by the sheer amount of works that can fit on a terabyte hard drive. Nonetheless, it is clear that the mediums used for preservation should be reevaluated as digitization expands.