Electronic libraries will make today’s Internet pale by comparison. But building them will not be easy
All over the world, libraries have begun the Herculean task of making faithful digital copies of the books, images and recordings that preserve the intellectual effort of humankind. For armchair scholars, the work promises to bring such a wealth of information to the desktop that the present Internet may seem amateurish in retrospect. …
Librarians see three clear benefits to going digital. First, it helps them preserve rare and fragile objects without denying access to those who wish to study them. The British Library, for example, holds the only medieval manuscript of Beowulf in London. Only qualified scholars were allowed to see it until Kevin S. Kiernan of the University of Kentucky scanned the manuscript with three different light sources (revealing details not normally apparent to the naked eye) and put the images up on the Internet for anyone to peruse. Tokyo’s National Diet Library is similarly creating highly detailed digital photographs of 1,236 woodblock prints, scrolls and other materials it considers national treasures so mat researchers can scrutinize them without handling the originals.
A second benefit is the convenience. Once books are converted to digital form, patrons can retrieve them in seconds rather than minutes. Several people can simultaneously read the same book or view the same picture. Clerks are spared the chore of reshelving. And libraries could conceivably use the Internet to lend their virtual collections to those who are unable to visit in person. The third advantage of electronic copies is that they occupy millimeters of space on a magnetic disk rather man meters on a shelf. Expanding library buildings is increasingly costly. The University of California at Berkeley recently spent $46 million on an underground addition to house 1.5 million books – an average cost of $30 per volume. The price of disk storage, in contrast, has fallen to about $2 per 300-page publication and continues to drop.
[From “Going Digital” by Michael Lesk, Copyright © March 1997 – by Scientific American, Inc. All rights reserved]
Which THREE of the following are mentioned in the text as benefits of going digital?
A. More people can see precious documents.
В. Old manuscripts can be moved more easily.
С. Material can be examined without being touched.
D. Fewer staff will be required in libraries.
E. Borrowers need not go to the library building.
F. Libraries will be able to move underground.
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