We’ve talked about the ridiculousness of Google approaching university libraries about digitizing their books and what an enormous copyright violation that is.
But here’s something else I wonder. Have the libraries really thought this through?
Every week, we get a report from Google that shows us how many hits and to which books those hits are attributed we’ve gotten from our books that are in one of their programs. Since the start of the fall semester, we’ve seen massive increases in the numbers of hits our books have received. It seems as if people are finally aware that you can search books and even read chunks of them online.
Right now, we need libraries to select and collect books we otherwise couldn’t afford that are considered important in their fields.
If all books exist in a searchable format online and, if Google can either instantly make the text available or point readers to where the text would be instantly available, what becomes of libraries?
Are they reduced to books with problematic permissions, art books, and rare books?
Do librarians become untethered from buildings?
Do we search in seedy parts of town, in cramped offices, to find ex-librarians who have the knowledge and skillsets to do searches that we’re not capable or comfortable doing? Will they spend their days drinking and calling women “broads” and “dames”? Smoking cigarettes and nursing hangovers, remembering how it used to be in their glory days on the force?
Will future writers write “librarian noir”?
And, if so, will those books ever make their way into a physical library?