The 1970s is seen as the decade that automated the technical processes in the library. Mainframe computers and minicomputers enable us to automate some of the most tedious tasks such as typing catalog cards, keeping track of circulation records and generating book orders. The 1970s also saw the advent and mastering of searching major reference tools electronically.
The 1980s brings a new development with the age of the microcomputer. Libraries can now do many of their processes with a microcomputer in house. They can create data bases, tailor make bibliographies, generate handouts and issue reports to meet their needs. Home microcomputers have al so given rise to home information services. The SOURCE, COMPUSERVE, KNOWLEDGE INDEX, and BRS AFTER DARK bring information sources once found only in libraries to the end user. Programs such as SCI MATE and SEARCHMASTER allow the end user to search data base services without the librarian as the intermediate.
A user subscribing to these services can now look up movie reviews, get the latest weather information, look up an article in an encyclopedia, do a simple bibliographic search, and acquire the articles without leaving the comfort of his home. The microcomputer is certainly changing our processes but what does it mean for our information services?
Many Librarians see this as a threat to the existence of public and perhaps research libraries. They see the information utilities for the appliance computer as competition to their services. They fear the age of electronic information services and instead of taking a leadership role they watch the developments but do not try adapt them to library use.
If librarianship is to survive as a profession, the librarian must take advantage of the electronic techology and incorporate it into the library as part of their routine services. Many routine reference questions can be answered by an electronic source quickly and efficiently. Librarians should be teaching patrons to use SCI MATE and SEARCHMASTER much as we have always taught patrons to use our printed indexes. We must be aware of the electronic sources and be able to advise on and incorporate software as part of our working collections.
This paper will describe the home information services and discuss their implications for library service. It is intended for all levels of librarians and it is hoped it will generate some discussion.
Greider, Antoinette Paris, "The Role of the Library in the Micro Age" (1984). Library Presentations. 181.