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Customer Review

on 9 May 2013
Baker's work is certainly an informative and well-researched piece of work. As a librarian I have mixed feelings towards his central argument. I sympathise with his assessment of microfilm as a poor (and expensive) substitute for paper, however, his alternative of keeping everything in its original form, never weeding collections or getting rid of books is seriously impractical for the majority of libraries. His arguments might stand for national libraries and 'libraries of last resort' but including also university and research libraries undermines his point - his vision for libraries, to me, seems like vast cavernous spaces filled with unused, out-of-date even archaic texts, of use only to history researchers - the ultimate keep everything "just-in-case" approach.
Baker's solution of off-site storage is rather naive, yes the costs of off-site storage may be lower than microfilming but does not appear to take into account on-costs of the perpetual storage he advocates; staffing, security, insurance, rent increases, maintainance, transport. Digitisation of texts is expensive but costs are almost exclusively front-loaded with low maintainance. In a time of ever-diminishing budgets, outlays for vast warehouses of little-accessed texts "just-in-case" is a poor use of funds, the first response of unsympathetic higher-ups would be to close them and pulp the texts, losing everything without backup.
Microfilm may not have proved a panacea for the problems libraries face, but I feel Baker is somewhat unfair on those who had hope in progress.
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