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Library Technology

Like other types of technology, library technology changes over time. Changes in technology have lead to better preservation of library holdings, easier access to information about what materials each library contains, and increased access to library materials. This article provides an overview of some important types of library technology.

What Is Library Technology?

Technology is the practical application of science. Library technology is the practical application of science in the service of library science. Because a library has such wide-ranging service requirements, library technology covers a very broad range.

The Technology of the Bookmobile

Some libraries are buildings that people travel to in order to take advantage of a collection of materials gathered in one place. Some are available over the Internet. And some are traveling collections. The bookmobile is in the last category.

The traveling library began as a horse-drawn wagon in the United States, and later became a motorized vehicle. In other places, a traveling library might be contained in a bus or a boat, or powered by a donkey or a camel.

Technology in the Library Building

Especially in contrast to digital libraries, the library building may not seem like the locale for much technology. But library technology has a long history. Do you remember microfilm and microfiche?

Microform Technology

Microform is the general term for images that are reduced in size and preserved on either microfilm or microfiche. Microfilm is a storage technique in which journals and periodicals are photographed, the images are reduced, and the results are collated and filed. Microfilm can be read on microfilm readers, which can also print. Microfiche is a storage techniques involving reduction of images of library materials onto 4 x 6” cards. Readers and printers are provided by libraries that continue to use this technology.

Journal Access in the 21st Century

Today, a library may have a print journal collection, but it is likely to also have purchased membership in one or more article databases that its patrons may connect to onsite (and sometimes off-site as well). Depending on the contract, the article database will give patrons access to abstracts or full articles from certain journals, newspapers, databases, and encyclopedias of specified dates. Patrons may be able to read articles online and/or download and print them out.

Library Catalog

Once upon a time, there was a term card catalog. Each book in the library was noted on a title card, an author card, and at least one subject card, and filed in the card catalog. Patrons literally thumbed through the boxes of cards, seeking to find what was in the library’s holdings. Today, digital catalogs make searching the library much easier. In addition, the digital library catalog may make a seamless connection with any digital holdings the library has, like E-books, E-texts, and scanned material.

Special Collections

Changes in special collections have made a substantial difference in the viability and availability of some important and rare articles in library collections. Advances in science have led to international standardization of climate control guidelines, which set out the appropriate temperature and humidity that fragile documents need for the optimal storage conditions.

Digitization of guides to collections, also now done according to standards, which in some cases previously only existed in print versions, has allowed many more people to be aware of a collection’s holdings. And interlibrary loan, as well as mail and Internet access, accompanied by the technologies of photocopying and scanning, has meant that unique and fragile pieces with previously restricted access can now be viewed by many more people and even multiple people at the same time in different parts of the world.