COMMENTARY: Keeping Up with New Technolgy, How Will Local Libraries Across the Country Afford to Keep Up? By MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Nov 29, 2022 at 06:30 am by WGNS News

(COMMENTARY) New technology is great, but how will libraries across America keep up with the ongoing changes that never end? With today’s media commentary, here is MTSU Professor of Journalism Larry Burriss…

Commentary Verbatim: “It was a quiet weekend, so I got my hundred-year-old copy of “The Man Without a Country” off the shelf and spent a few hours re-reading this American classic.


Did you get that? My hundred-year-old copy.

Now, try this: go get that old box of computer parts, find a 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disk, and try to find a computer to read it. Or how about a Zip Disk? Maybe a 3 and 1/2 inch floppy?

Did you spend hours transferring the files from one system to another? probably not.

Or maybe you have tried to download some pictures from your phone, only to find your computer didn’t have the right cable connector or the correct decoding program.

Now multiply these little problems a thousand-fold or more, and you can see the problems facing even small libraries as they try to keep up with digitizing and born-digital books, magazines, photographs, sound recordings and the myriad of other formats they have to keep up with.

Oh, and add to these problems the fact that some publishers will not allow libraries to use their own digitizing software, and instead have to use some obscure, proprietary software, or face a copyright infringement lawsuit.

And not only does the software change, but the digital media the documents reside on changes as well.

How many of you remember Digital Linear Tape? That latest and greatest technology, with an original capacity of 100 megabytes, lasted all of 23 years before it was obsolete, and files stored on those system were unreadable, unless new software and hardware was purchased.

Then there are issues with cataloging and metadata. Library users have ever-changing expectations about what they can access, and no longer will a simple index work. After all, a user may want to find a particular photograph of a bear in a flower-strewn meadow with hills in the background?

So which words will the librarian, use to index the photograph? Any of the dozens of words for all kinds of bears?

What about all of the different kinds of flowers in the photograph? Index each kind?

Is there a name of the meadow that needs to be indexed? A name for the hill? The Native American name or the English name? And which spelling?

And what of the dozen or so words used to locate the scene? Country, state, county, nearest city, township?

The possibilities are almost infinite, and woe to the librarian who misses one!

New technologies can be wonderful things, but your local library is going to need some serious financial and legal help to keep it from turning into that old box with dozens of files and formats inaccessible to anyone. - I’m Larry Burriss.”

About Dr. Burriss - Larry Burriss, professor of journalism, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He holds degrees from The Ohio State University (B.A. in broadcast journalism, M.A. in journalism), the University of Oklahoma (M.A. in human relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in journalism) and Concord Law School (J.D.). He has worked in print and broadcast news and public relations, and has published extensively in both academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss' publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photography, radio news, legal issues related to adolescent use of social networking sites, legal research, and Middle Earth.

Dr. Burriss has served as director of the School of Journalism, dean of the College of Mass Communication and president of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Gov. Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.

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