ArticlePDF Available

Beware of electronic libraries / media

Authors:

Abstract

Print materials appeal to only one of the five senses, namely, the sight of man. Electronic medium provides for the effective use of the 'sight' and 'hearing' senses. With enormous dissemination capacity, easy acceptance by customers and monopolistic/profound effect on users a medium like TV acts as a 'third parent' to children, a powerful and hypnotic gadget to adults and a 'cultural melting pot' for the society. The advantages and limitations of both print and electronic media for information acceptance, perception and use are discussed. Impact of electronic media on education, entertainment, information supply and social, cultural and behavioural aspects are discussed.
BEWARE OF ELECTRONIC MEDIA AND LIBRARIES@
M.S. SRIDHAR
ABSTRACT: Print materials appeal to only one of the five senses,
namely, the sight of man. Electronic medium provides for the
effective use of the ‘sight’ and ‘hearing’ senses. With enormous
dissemination capacity, easy acceptance by customers and
monopolistic/profound effect on users a medium like TV acts as a
‘Third parent’ to children, a powerful and hypnotic gadget to
adults and a ‘cultural melting pot’ for the society. The
advantages and limitations of both print and electronic media for
information acceptance, perception and use by man are discussed.
Information industry is considered as belonging to leisure
industries. Impact of electronic media on education,
entertainment, information supply and social, cultural and
behavioural aspects are mentioned.
Introduction
Libraries having only print materials are restricted and
useful only to functional literates. They appeal to only one of
the five senses, namely the sight of man. `Sight’ is a very
powerful sense of man and reading books makes highly
inefficient and under-utilisation of this sense by requiring it
to scan linearly printed black alphabets of a language against
white background of paper. Imparting knowledge has necessarily to
make use of all the five senses of man and break the monotony of
alphabets.
Reading is believed to make man to close his mind to wider
possibilities of imaginative expression. Print has formed a
circle of aloofness around the reader and typing has reduced
expression from art to craft and from personal to impersonal.
Electronic medium is a powerful tool having vast and wide
applications in society. How much of it can be taken to their
folds by libraries is left to one’s imagination. Electronic
medium emphasises effective use of the `sight’ and ‘hearing’
senses and naturally, rare use of the other senses.
Electronic Media
Electronic media has pivotal role in information transfer,
education, culture, environment, health, politics, commerce, etc.
The entertainment value of the media has overshadowed the
informational, educational and cultural values. As a double
edged tool of `third wave’, electronic media is
encroaching and eroding the readership of already under-used
print medium. In the struggle for coexistence, books have been
relegated to the position of ‘inferior goods’ (as per the economic
analysis of income elasticity of demand). At the same time,
electronic media is helping libraries to increase their efficiency
and effectiveness by providing information in all its dimensions
and colours. Unlike print medium, electronic media do not always
require knowledge of script, comprehension and cerebral
coordination on the part of users. Just understanding of the
spoken language, access to the media and very little
training are enough to use many services in electronic
media. Electronic media coupled with advances in telecommunication
make it economical to cover vast geographical area and almost
complete population under information services. There is no limit
on physical proximity of electronic libraries and their users.
Above all, people perceive the utility of electronic libraries as
quite high and there is no need for strong motivation to use them.
With enormous dissemination capacity, easy acceptance by
customers and monopolistic/profound effect on users a medium like
TV acts as a `third parent’ to children, a powerful and hypnotic
gadget to adults and a `cultural melting pot’ for the society.
Information technology and computer based systems are now
dominating and revolutionising libraries with versatility of
their compact multimedia storage, electronic viewing and
manipulation, instantaneous transfer and movement of
information and inexpensive duplication. Print on paper is only
one of the media for carrying information. Electronic libraries
expand the horizon of information gathering, increase
perception, processing, comprehension and understanding of
information by users through the compactly, concisely, less
ambiguously and directly stored information and provide for
interaction with media as well as manipulation of information.
At the same time limitations of electronic libraries / media like
costs, compatibility, copyright, lack of standardisation and
adverse / ill effects are to be noted.
Information and Leisure Industries
Libraries belong two competing and complimentary industries,
namely information industry and leisure industry. They are
competing because both try to claim the leisure time and leisure
expenses of people. They are complimentary because information
technology is tending to increase the leisure time available
without reducing the income from the work.
Three major inputs into the process of leisure production are
time, money and technology. In other words, the available leisure
time coupled with the level of consumers’ disposable income and
the state of technical knowledge determine the production of
leisure. Leisure, though not solely a service industry, has
been part of tremendous rise in the service sector of the
economy relative to the manufacturing sector.
Many leisure activities are quite demanding in terms of the
skills required to enjoy them to the full. Leisure time
become boring without sufficient consumption skills and in such
situations people resort to low skill activities like watching
TV. Teen-agers are often bored (and even resort to crime and
vandalism for excitement) due to lack of adequate /
better leisure facilities and lack of consumption skill if
facilities are available. Activities like using a library or a
database, reading a book, appreciating an art, etc., require
adequate consumption skill on the part of customer. Even
low skill activities like watching TV and movies require
`appreciation’ training and skill to make maximum benefit out
of the activities. This appears to be one of the reasons for
decrease in reading habit and increase in watching TV.
Impact of Electronic Media and Libraries
As mentioned earlier, some of the positive and negative
effects of electronic media on education, entertainment,
information supply and social, cultural and behavioural
aspects are worth noting. Interestingly, information
superhighway can virtually allow talking, learning
(education), shopping, playing (entertainment), investing
(finance), etc. on a global basis.
Education: By and large, electronic media/libraries aid all
types of education - formal, nonformal, adult, vocational,
distance and higher. But, if education is to give first
place to the culture of the heart or the building of
character as desired by Gandhiji, the ‘violent and hot’
electronic media may fail in some respects. Further, as
found by U.S National Commission on Education, commercial
electronic media (i) lead children to synthetic as opposed to
analytic modes of learning, (ii) make the boundary between
reality and fantasy unclear and (iii) cause rejection of the
message when clashed with the expectation.
Entertainment: Electronic media has brought total
democratisation and transformation of the concept of
entertainment. Yet they fall short of `family’ expectations.
The `cocktail’ of amusement and social education has not been
effective as messages through amusement and
entertainment are not perceived transparently sincere.
Entertainment reflects something of the psychic drives that
lie deeper than immediately apparent demands of the market.
It is not possible for an `entertainment-led’ revolution to
occur. But people want and are willing to pay for
entertainment industry. Hence entertainment has dominated
televideo and leisure time of the people.
Social, Behavioral and Cultural Effects: Communication plays
important role in bringing social change. Social change and
economic development are closely related. Electronic media
have changed the living habits, styles and values of people.
They have shaken the traditional unwritten family norms,
culture and behaviour. Aggregate flow of reiterated formulae,
formats and ritualisation in electronic media cultivates the
social environment. Minds are fertilised and nurtured within
shared cultural environment of the world. A ‘cultural melting
pot’ like televedio provide common denominator and helps
homogenisation of a heterogeneous society. Yet it is not
totally free from divisive and ill effects. As a powerful
and hypnotic gadget, it affects behaviour of viewers
particularly children. The trends like an average American
child spends 10% of his or her time watching TV and gets
exposed to over 1 lakh acts of violence by the time he or she
becomes 13 year old and TV has moved from 8th to 3rd place
out of top ten factors influencing the youth are quite
disturbing. Even in India, the average time spent in watching
TV is 14 1/2 hours a week (The Hindu, 26 Nov. 1995, Magazine
Section PI). The result is that the margin between childhood
and adulthood is cut and children give an impression that they are
more matured than what they are. Televedio causes diminishing
respect for adults, exposes adolescents to unreal and provocative
life and shakes the confidence and trust of children in
traditional proven values.
Ill Effects of Electronic Media on Values and Habits:
Adverse or ill effects of electronic media on human values
and habits cannot be easily ignored. It is difficult to say
whether or not electronic media and modernisation of
libraries through new technologies should conform to values.
Of course, creativity of library users may not depend on
whether a library is electronic or otherwise. Unlike nature,
technology does not possess the virtues of being self-
balancing, self-adjusting and self-cleansing. Further, modern
technology has deprived man of the kind of work that he enjoys
most, creative, useful work with hands and brains but has given
him plenty of work of a fragmented kind, most of which he does
not enjoy at all (Schumacher, 1973).
Social Isolation: Social isolation is the major problem of
today’s world. One-fourth of American households consist of
a single person. The technology has eroded the bonds of
neighbourly interdependence and become ‘solating
technologies’. The ‘cool’ print medium isolates individual
but sponsors rational and dispassionate analysis of the
message unlike the ‘violent and hot’ electronic media which
encourages group and even mob thinking (The Economist, 21-27
August 1993, p34). The internet is knitting congenial sails
together without visual contact and hence does not fully
gratify the social machinery in our minds. Further, " ...
the net adds to the information overload, whose psychological
effects are still unknown but certainly aren’t wholly benign"
(Wright, 28 Aug 95, p 45).
"The pursuit of more communication keep us from better
knowing our neighbour, better knowing our kin - in general,
from cultivating the warm, affectionate side of human nature
whose roots science is just now starting to fathom" (Wright
28 Aug 95, p46). The electronically recorded messages are
just taking over the place of village headman, the school
master or mistress, the doctor, priest or party functionary.
Developments like video on demand (VOD), virtual reality (VR)
coupled with data super highways (DHS) are revolutionising
entertainment, education and information supply. Spending
time may become the central problem or opportunity of life
and "The individuals of tomorrow would be subjected to
greater isolation, though of a self pleasuring kind, and the
lonely Disneylands of the future are at least a stimulating
substitute for lonely idleness" (Smith, September 1993). At
the same time the modern technological societies need literate
elites who depend substantially on print world.
Conclusion
It is still believed that print medium with its ease of use
allows you to have more purposeful and fruitful time
spending (by ordering what you want, when you want and where
you want) and supports the basic human drive to self
improvement than electronic media. Only print medium can
break greater loneliness and isolation (like Disneylands)
created by technology.
Electronic media do not respect freedom, autonomy, diversity
and individuality. They have scant respect for intelligent
viewers. Print as a ‘cool’ medium also appears to provide
more real and rational messages than `violent and hot’
electronic media. Print is almost perception independent and
overcomes perceptual constancy and misperception whereas
electronic media depend on viewers’ perception.
Print provides lasting experience rather than instant
entertainment, education and information. Print upholds
cultural value and electronic media has all the potential to
set cultural degradation. Electronic media sometimes has
inbuilt information hierarchies which, at times, affect ease
of use. In addition, print has much less health hazards than
televideo.
As on today, large chunk of information continues to be in
paper medium. It is pertinent to note a finding of a recent
study by M/s.Coopers and Hybrand (Hendley, 1988, p17) that
"...of the information that enters an organisation in paper
form, only 1% is coded and entered into computer systems,
under 5% is converted to microfilm at some stage of its life
and 94% remains in paper form throughout its life time. In
addition, as the volume of transactions grows the volume of
paper handled is rising at the rate of 25% per year". Thus,
inspite of many mass-storage devices like microform, optical
and electronic media, and paper continues to have a major share.
It is unrealistic to think of disposing paper system. In an
automated environment also, it is desirable that manual
system coexist to some extent to take care of SOS call.
Digital representation of information in electronic media
makes it amenable to cost-effective processing, communication
and storage. But many attributes like ubiquity, quality of
display, ease and speed of browsing and aesthetics like feel,
texture, quality of binding, etc. of a printed book still
score over electronic media. There are many tangible and
intangible benefits of books which are not available in
electronic form. For example, browsing, which is an
important requirements of users, is slowed down by 40% if
done on CRT (Gimson, 1995, p 141). Similarly, electronic
media skips proof reading , makes editing (on VDU) more
difficult and time consuming and creates tendency to skip an
important process called refereeing required for quality
control.
Regarding the cost of superhighway, it may be noted that "No
matter who builds it, the global data network will be
staggeringly expensive: estimates range from $400 billion
over 20 years in North America alone up to more than a
trillion dollars worldwide, and the truth is that no one
knows how high the cost will be" ( McGrath, 6 June 1994,
p19).
Lastly, there is a dire need for according equal importance
to electronic media in libraries. There is also a need for
re-thinking and re-defining the role of libraries to
accommodate dynamic multimedia information in electronic /
digital form and to provide mechanisms that will cater for
`living’ information that can be modified and adopted by
users. Further, it is equally important to impart necessary
consumption skills for effective and efficient use of
electronic libraries.
REFERENCES:
1. Deodhar, P. S. "The Third Parent: growth and development
of Indian electronic media." New Delhi: Vikas, 1991.
2. "Religion and communications: Feeling fundamentalism",
The Economist, 328 (7825) 21-27 August 1993, 33.
3. Forthergill, Richard and Butchart, Ian. Non-book
materials in libraries: a practical guide. 3rd ed.
London: Clive Bingley, 1990.
4. Gilder, George "The death of telephony (why the
telephone and TV will not be the stars of the
communication revolution) The Economist, 328 (7828) 11-
17 September 1993, 69 - 72.
5. Gimson, Roger. "Electronic paper - can it be real?"
Aslib proceedings, 47(6) June 1995, 139-149.
6. Hendley, A. M. "Document image processing systems: Part
II - Applications". Information Media and Technology,
21(1) January 1988, 17-18.
7. McGrath, Peter. "Your electronic future,” Newsweek, 6
June 1994, 16-19.
8. Schumacher, F. F. Small is beautiful: A study
of economics of people mattered. London: Abacus, 1973.
9. Sharada, P. V. Impact of television on political
awareness of rural masses. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing
House, 1992.
10. Smith, Anthony "The electronic circus,” The Economist,
328 (7828) 11-17 September 1993, 72, 75-76.
11. Sridhar M. S. "Library applications of CD-ROM database
with a case study of CD-ROM system at ISRO Satellite
Centre Library," CLIS Observer, 11 (3 & 4) July -
December 1994: 49 - 65.
12. Sridhar, M. S. "Information technology and library
services: a struggle for happy and healthy partnership".
An invited guest lecture delivered at National Workshop
on Impact of Information Technology on Libraries, August
6-11, 1995, Karnataka Regional Engineering College,
Surathkal - 574157.
13. Sridhar, M. S. " Modernising library services using
IT: potentials and problems". An invited paper for the
seminar on Services in Automated Libraries: Challenges
and Opportunities, December 4 - 5, 1995, American
Studies Research Centre, Hyderabad - 500 007.
14. Sweetland, James H. "Information poverty - Let me count
the ways (The linear file - Gust editorial)" Database,
16(4) August 1993, 8 - 10.
15. Teague, S. John. Microform, video and electronic media
librarianship. London: Butterworths, 1985.
16. Wright, Robert "The evolution of despair", Time, 146 (9)
28 August 1995, 40 - 46.
-------------------------------------------------------------
@An invited paper for 15th Annual Convention and Conference
of Society for Information Science on ‘Digital Libraries’,
18-20 January 1996, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
About the Author
Dr. M. S. Sridhar is a post graduate in Mathematics and Business
Management and a Doctorate in Library and Information Science.
He is in the profession for last 36 years. Since 1978, he is heading the
Library and Documentation Division of ISRO Satellite Centre,
Bangalore. Earlier he has worked in the libraries of National
Aeronautical Laboratory (Bangalore), Indian Institute of
Management (Bangalore) and University of Mysore. Dr. Sridhar has
published 4 books, 83 research articles, 22 conferences papers, written
19 course materials for BLIS and MLIS, made over 25 seminar presentations and contributed 5
chapters to books.
E-mail: sridharmirle@yahoo.com, mirlesridhar@gmail.com, sridhar@isac.gov.in ; Phone: 91-80-25084451; Fax: 91-
80-25084476.


... et al.,[48,49], all suggest important capabilities that students must acquire to use text-based electronic information resources successfully; (Gopinath., Shridhar and Small et al.), [19,20,39] perform the same function for multimedia materials. ...
... Park and Hannafin [31] have compiled a set of empirically based guidelines for designing interactive multimedia that might provide some insights into how components of the digital library might be designed to enhance learning. Gopinath [19] discussed the attempt to provide a modular structure for the learning of a computer based information system is essence of IT. Gopinath indicated to the curriculum design that the organization of learning experiences for library and information professionals involves vertical and horizontal relationships. ...
Article
Full-text available
This study analyzes the interrelationships of different components of distance education, such as online learning, multimedia techniques of digital libraries' and internet applications. Different software's like QuickTime, iTunes, and YTube, have been used as tools of internet while using Berkeley Digital Library Website as the source of education and learning. The aim of this study is to analyze the impact of distance education on online learning. At higher education level, to find out the impact of online learning on feedback, to assess the impact of activities on online learning and to understand the impact of usability on experience. The effect of online teaching on usability and impact of learnability on online teaching will also be analyzed. Two models have been developed to study the variables using AMOS 5 program, they explained 18% of variance for learnability and 95% of variance for distance education. The subjects had been using BDL were engaged in multi tasks such as searching, browsing, downloading, copying, listening, reading, watching, writing, extracting, and abstracting information. They also used chat rooms for more discussions during online collaborative and finally reported their information in different styles through assignments, projects on WWW with the help of their teachers.
Article
Full-text available
Stressing the positive roles played by CD-ROM databases in modernising services of libraries, explains the significance of CD-ROM technology in terms of enormous storage at low cost, ruggedness, use in remote locations and for archival purposes, potential for mass market distribution, efficient replacement of online searching in developing countries and highly versatile and efficient search and retrieval features; Discusses various library applications of CD-ROM databases including national, general and specific applications. Some of the specific applications enumerated are library automation, retrospective conversion, cataloguing exchange of bibliographic data, current awareness service, retrospective searching, impetus to networking cooperation and resource sharing, developing local database, expanded services like SDI at no extra cost, reference service, collection development and evaluation and quantitative studies; Lastly, a cost and use analysis of CD-ROM services from a case study of CD-ROM system of ISRO Satellite Centre (ISAC) library is also presented.
Article
Some people have used the phrase ‘electronic paper’ to suggest that electronic information displays may replace the printed page. Progress towards the ideal of electronic paper is reviewed along several dimensions: the technologies, such as the display surface, the appearance, such as the page layout, and the function, such as the styles of interaction, that are currently available and may become possible in the future.
Article
An abstract is not available.
The electronic circus The Economist
  • Anthony Smith
Smith, Anthony "The electronic circus, " The Economist, 328 (7828) 11-17 September 1993, 72, 75-76.
Impact of television on political awareness of rural masses
  • P Sharada
Sharada, P. V. Impact of television on political awareness of rural masses. New Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 1992.
Information technology and library services: a struggle for happy and healthy partnership". An invited guest lecture delivered at National Workshop on Impact of Information Technology on Libraries
  • M S Sridhar
Sridhar, M. S. "Information technology and library services: a struggle for happy and healthy partnership". An invited guest lecture delivered at National Workshop on Impact of Information Technology on Libraries, August 6-11, 1995, Karnataka Regional Engineering College, Surathkal -574157.