Virtual and Traditional Libraries: Philosophical Aspects of Their Relationships

This paper was originally written in October 2002 by Tatiana Poliakevitch to fulfill the requirements of LIS 501 at the University of Alberta. It was put into HTML format to fulfill the requirements of the Capping Exercise (LIS 600) in November 2004.

Introduction: Virtual Library as “The Book of Sand”

I will try to persuade my reader to think about the problem of relationships between virtual and real library philosophically rather than practically, operating with metaphors instead of definitions because this approach to the topic will allow to us to include the phenomenon of the virtual libraries not only in the context of library world but also in the context of the culture. I use following metaphor for virtual library – “The Book of Sand” - that, in my view, reveals the nature of this phenomenon. Full text

Literature Review

“The Joy of Possession”

The world of librarians is not homogenous today. Two professional fields exist now, even though they are not yet ratified officially: cybrarians, who deal, to various extents with digital libraries, and librarians, who work in traditional libraries. Cybrarians recognize possible difficulties and problems along the way, but, at the same time, they can see solutions and directions for the future development of the union of traditional and digital libraries. They are enjoying the possession of “the Book of Sand” very much. Full text

“A Prisoner of the Book”

Summarizing the opinions of real librarians about virtual and real libraries, I emphasize that librarians have already become the prisoners of “the Book of Sand” because it offers an infinite number of opportunities to enhance existing library institutions, and library professionals cannot ignore it. Some librarians are trying to make use of different opportunities of collaboration between virtual and tarditional libraries, while others realize the danger of these plans and even take actions to prevent such collaboration. Full text

“With a magnifying glass”

Bibliophiles have studied “the Book of Sand” with a magnifying glass. Some scholars have tried to examine closely the content of “the Book of Sand” and write the “manuals” for potential users. The content of the books illustrates that, despite thorough analysis of highly diverse nature of virtual library, this subject remains unclear and even mysterious. Full text

Conclusion: “Hiding a leaf in the forest”

The coexistence of virtual and real libraries creates new problems and questions with every new bit of information produced in the world. The hero of “The Book of Sand” made his choice: he hid the infinite book. Librarians have no choice but to adapt “the Book of Sand” to the needs of humankind. Is it real? Full text