Physical Libraries vs Electronic Libraries

The Everton Collection at the Logan Library in Logan, Utah could use more visitors.

Last September Leland Meitzler on his excellent genealogyblog broke the following news about one of the largest private genealogical collections in the U.S.:

I really feel that I’m being premature in posting this blog, but since the word is now circulating on the Internet, I’m forced into it. Yes – plans are underway for the Everton library to open in early October. I will announce the actual opening when it happens.

The Everton collection, which has been unavailable to the public for over two years now, will be opening soon. Logan Library Director Ron Jenkins has been interviewing potential librarians for the collection – and earlier this month, Jenkins hired Jason Cornelius, who is moving from Salt Lake City to Logan. Cornelius will be a full-time librarian, cataloging and overseeing the daily operations of the collection.

The books are housed in an unfinished and unused auxillary courtroom in Logan. The facility is very warehouse-like, complete with bare concrete floors. However, the bookshelves are full of an amazing variety of genealogical materials. It will be good to see the facility open to the public.

Volunteers are needed to assist with clerical work and help genealogists use the massive collection.

Read more about the “opening soon” of the Everton collection in the September 22, 2006 edition of The Logan Herald Journal.

Yesterday, a news story claims that the Library has had only 200 visits since it opened last October.

I googled “everton library logan” and “logan utah genealogy” and couldn’t readily find any information about the library, its holdings, hours or anything else. I looked at Everton.com’s home page and couldn’t find anything. Then I googled “logan library” and found the Logan Library home page with a prominent link to the Everton Collection information that visitors or volunteers would need.

If Logan officials would like more visitors to the Library, I’m sure World Vital Records can help a great deal. We have thousands of daily visitors to our web site. We could make it easy for these visitors, who are accessing some portions of the Everton Collection on our web site, to find the physical library in Logan where they can access the entire 82,000 piece collection, including the many copyrighted materials that World Vital Records will not likely put on its web site for some time.

I have wondered how physical libraries around the world will fare as Google Book Search, the Open Content Alliance, Microsoft Live Book Search, and other massive book digitization projects around the world.

(I think Microsoft Live Book Search is cleaner than Google’s. And to compare the size of the content, I did a search for my ancestor William Brewster, of Mayflower fame. Here are the 1,449 William Brewster results on Microsoft and the 3,608 William Brewster results on Google.)

Thomson Gale’s Access My Library project is a very smart effort to continue to make libraries relevant, by enabling library patrons to access huge electronic collections using their library ID.

I personally love physical libraries–there is nothing like browsing shelves and thumbing through old books. While I love the digital libraries for searching for something specific, I prefer to browse in a physical library. I have had some ideas about how RFID or Bluetooth could be used along with Smart Phones and PDAs to turn physical book collections into a wonderful experience of discovery–where the PDA knows what you are looking for and the books know what they contain, and the PDA and books can communicate as you wander around around the library, and let you know when you’re near something of interest.

I think future physical libraries could be really far out, but unless they do something radical, I’m not sure how they will survive.

What are your thoughts about physical libraries and the purpose they will serve in the coming years?

One Comment

  1. “there is nothing like browsing shelves and thumbing through old books”
    …thus defining the rule. I remember almost 10 years ago a professor saying “yeah, and they told us the internet would replace libraries!” Because it was my professor I didn’t tell him I had never in my college career been to the library for more than thumbing through old books and/or looking for a quiet place. But even 10 years ago it was just more trouble than it was worth for an undergrad to use published theses over altavista or dogpile or whatever was the search enging of the day.

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