On December 27, 1964, the Florida Times-Union released a 313-page edition commemorating the newspaper’s centennial. (The paper got its start as the Florida Union in 1864.) Various reporters and contributors dove into every element of the city’s history–from its Timucuan roots and territorial days, to its founding in 1822, to the Great Fire of 1901 and beyond. They also cast their eyes to the future, celebrating the region’s assets and prognosticating about its potential.
Harry Brinton, then Director of Jacksonville Public Libraries, wrote a decidedly prescient piece about the future of libraries. Titled, “Electronic Home Library Forecast,” the article tried to guess what libraries would look like in one hundred years. As you read Mr. Brinton’s article on your computer, tablet or smart phone, we invite you to consider how many of his predictions have already come true:
“What will our library look like 100 years from now? How will it work? These two questions are often asked and with recent advancements in electronic equipment and other mechanized data processing services, some imaginary speculations are offered which may not really be far-fetched.
The library of the future will serve the traditional needs of its patrons and it will also serve as a data processing center for thousands of home “remote stations” electronically geared to request and receive information.
It is entirely possible that by 2064 A.D. the student will have all the information in the library at his bidding in a few seconds. He will be able to sit down at home in a chair in front of a small console, no larger than an electronic organ. He will put on a headset that is a throwback to the old radio crystal set days with modifications by “My Favorite Martian” of the 20th Century.
He’ll spin a telephone dial . . . punch a few keys that will send electronic impulses over a magnetic wire to the central library center where his request will be received, fed into a memory computer and the material sent back to him by television or radio. This presumption is based on recent acceleration tendencies. However, if the material must be retained for reuse later, the console will have receiving apparatus that will be fed from the library’s vast storehouse of microfilmed material.
The “library console” will be a popular home feature three generations from now. Just like the first radios and televisions, the first console models will probably be too expensive for most families to own. The early models will be installed in schools, colleges, clubs and in homes of the very wealthy who can afford it. By 2064 A.D., the “Handy Dandy Library Console” will be one of the best-selling items for the big department stores and mail order houses. Later they will begin to appear at much lower prices after the first excitement wears off.
A mail order model at $299.95 will not compare with the deluxe, $3,500 custom-made console. The less expensive model will serve to bring in a limited amount of library material, such as data from the most popular encyclopedia sets, some other standard reference works, the unabridged dictionaries in several languages and the bound files of the National Geographic and other educational publications and periodicals.
There will be no limit to the potential of the deluxe model. It will be constructed in such a way that additional circuits can be wired in as they are available to expand the library’s remote service.
Already a UNIVAC magnetic tape computer has digested into its memory the thoughts of 74 authors on abstract subjects. Data processing equipment is being used more and more for the mechanization of voluminous files in a variety of areas. So, you see, we’re on the right track. The “library console” is on the way.
We don’t mean to give the idea that books and libraries are on the way out with this talk of electronic computers and home library receiving centers. Books will remain a favored source of information and recreation.
They have many advantages over electronic devices: They can be consulted whenever desired and the reader can turn any page at will; once purchased, they require no further expenditure; and there is no need to have a connection to electronic power or to make costly repairs.
Another predicition for the library of the future that should interest patrons who prefer to feel a book in their hands so they can savor printed words on a page rather than rely on electronic devices, is the possibility that in the future patrons may be able to obtain a fascimile book from the library copied for him by a do-it-yourself vending machine in a few seconds. These books may be taken home and kept.
Libraries will be more inportant than ever a hundred years from now. It is estimated that the sum total of man’s knowledge will be several times greater than at present. The amount of printed matter doubled in the first half of this century, doubled again between 1950 and 1960, and yet again before 1965. Projecting into this future, we will be dealing with billions of volumes as compared to thousands at the present. Therefore, libraries will need to be more efficient to make information more readily accessible. This will require the use of the latest electronic equipment and increased use of microfilm storage.
Not only will more librarians be needed, but the need will be for librarians whose specialized education and training will enable them to cope with the ever-growing mountains of fact, using both the traditional and machine approaches. Books are durable, and since the codex replaced the scroll in the early years of the Christian era, there has been no really important change in the physical form of books or in their manufacture. There have been increases in speed and efficiency, but the process is fundamentally the same as it was in Gutenberg’s day.
No one has any better solution for the assembling of words in a usable, understandable pattern than the simple printed word in a book. What happens to the words after they come out in the books is the key to the library of the future.