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gram for Library and Information Services: Goals for Action” may be obtained from the Commission at 1717 K Street, N.W., Suite 601, Washington, D.C. 20036. Single or multiple copies may be obtained from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 (Stock Number 052–003-0086-5, price $1.45).
TOWARD A NATIONAL PROGRAM FOR
The National Commission on Libraries and Information Science proposes a National Program for Library and Information Services based on five assumptions:
First, that the total library and information resource in the
In consonance with these assumptions the Commission has developed two major program objectives: (1) to strengthen or create, where needed, the human and material resources that are supportive of high quality library and information services; and (2) to join together the library and information facilities in the country, through a common pattern of organization, uniform standards, and shared communications, to form a nationwide network.
The Need for a National Program for Library and Information Services
Information, whether in the raw form of empirical data or in the highly processed form we call "knowledge,” has come to be regarded as a national resource as critical to the nation's well-being and security as any natural resource, such as water or coal. The wealth of popular, intellectual, scholarly, and research resources in the libraries and information facilities of the United States is one of the great strengths of the Nation. But like many resources, knowledge resources, uncoordinated in growth and usage, are being wasted.
In advanced societies, a substantial part of the culture is handed down to successive generations in recorded forms. This resource consists of books, journals, and other texts; of audio and visual materials; and of smaller units of data that can be separately manipulated, as by a computer. In recent years, these records have become increasingly varied through technological extensions of written words, pictures and sounds. For example, a significant part of the country's information is now on film, on video tapes, and in computer files. As the Nation's knowledge grows and the number of records increases, our dependence upon the records increases, and the need to gain access to them becomes more crucial. No society can advance beyond a certain point without effective access to its collective memory of record; or, conversely, an advanced society that loses control of the record will regress.
The Need for Access
Ready access to information and knowledge is essential to individual advancement as well as to national growth. People are individuals, each with unique informational, educational, psychological, and social needs. The need for information is felt at all levels of society, regardless of an individual's location, social condition, or intellectual achievement. The Commission is especially aware that much more must be done to understand and to satisfy the needs of special constituencies, such as ethnic minorities, the economically disadvantaged, the uneducated, the physically handicapped, the very young and the very old, as well as scientists, scholars, doctors, businessmen, and other professionals. The right information provided when it is needed, where it is needed, and in the form in which it is needed, improves the ability of any individual, or business, or government agency, to make wise decisions.
America has an abundance of recorded information. However, this precious resource is concentrated in a relatively small number of locations, often inaccessible to millions of people, and is lying largely untapped. The challenge is to find the means for making these resources available to more people through a system which will provide effective identification, location, and distribution services. Many local library facilities, designed for other times and conditions, can no longer cope with the ever-increasing volume of information produced in this country and abroad, nor can they satisfy the rapidly changing needs of our society. The deteriorating ability of some information facilities to meet essential needs is alarming. The nation must take steps now to strengthen and organize these resources into a coherent nationwide system, or it might soon face information chaos.
The Influence of Technology
Libraries are affected by four new technologies : computers, micrographics, telecommunications, and audiovisual media. The use of computers, audiovisual media, and micrographics has already been pioneered, but the direct application of computers has been focused mainly on housekeeping functions. The computer's potential for recording, analyzing, and retrieving information itself has not yet been fully explored. Community Antenna Television (CATV) promises the subscriber, by means of many channels, two-way communications of both pictures and sound, facsimile services, and access to data processing. The nation's future ability to handle information will depend on how well and how rapidly we can integrate new technological methods and devices with the mainstream of information activities.
A Threshold Issue
Resolution of the complex problem of copyright is crucial to cooperative programs and networks among libraries as well as to the creativity and economic viability of authorship and publishing. The judicially constructed doctrine of "fair use" provides only a partial answer, and the eventual solution must reconcile the rights and interests of the providers of information with those of the consumers. New understandings about copying from network resources, especially in the context of new technologies for reproduction and distribution, are needed to enable the library community to satisfy its legal and moral obligations to the author and publisher while meeting its institutional responsibility to its patrons.
The Rationale for Federal Involvement
The national program blends user needs for information with information technology in order to provide equity of access to what is, in fact, a major national resource. The implementation of a workable national program will require close cooperation between the Federal Government and the states, between the state and local governments, and between Federal and state governments and the private sector. Such cooperation is most appropriately fostered through Federal legislation.
Current Problems of Libraries
There are almost 90,000 libraries in the United States today. They vary in size and complexity from small village facilities with only a few shelves of books for recreational reading to large research libraries with magnificent collections on many subjects. Collectively, they are the foundation on which a nationwide network should be built.
The current problems of Federal, public, special, school, college and university, research and state libraries, are detailed in the full text of the national program. The following principal concerns are generalized from testimony taken at the Commission's regional hearings, from research studies and reports, and from conferences with professional
and lay groups.
(1) The growth of libraries in the United States has been fragmented
and uneven, leading to waste and duplication of the National knowledge resource and, for lack of common standards, creating
obstacles to a cohesive national system. (2) The distribution of library services is correlated with that of
population and financial support. While some people have easy access to rich resources, others still lack the most elementary forms of service.
(3) The problems of people who lack even the most basic information
services or are served only marginally must be identified and ad
dressed. (4) There is a limit to self-sufficiency in the ability of any library,
even the largest public or research library, to satisfy its constit
uents. (5) Special libraries with work-related goals serve at present only
limited clienteles. (6) Greater collaboration should be developed among libraries and
the commercial and other private sector distributors of the newer
information services. (7) Funding at every level is inadequate. A major change in Federal
policy is needed to ensure mutually reinforcing funding formulas. (8) New Federal legislation should give local libraries the incentive
to join larger systems outside of their immediate jurisdictions.
Some Concerns of the Private Sector
The phrase "private sector" includes libraries and other organizations, for-profit and not-for-profit, that produce, process, and distribute information. Through publishing, indexing, abstracting, and other services, they perform vital functions in information transfer. The "information industry” directly or indirectly affects all elements of society, and the Commission considers it essential that information activities in the public and private sectors work in harmony with one another in consonance with the national interest.
A major concern of the private sector is its economic viability in view of the possibility that the sharing of resources through networks implies a loss of potential sales. Librarians, on the other hand, claim that networks will lead to greater information use and, hence, to increased sales. The Commission believes that the creators and consumers of information cannot exist without each other and that precautions should be taken to protect the economic balance between them. Another cause of alarm in the private sector is the dominance of the Federal Government as the largest single producer and disseminator of information in the United States. The question is whether the Federal Government or the private sector should publish and disseminate information produced with public funds. The Commission believes that policy guidelines about the use of private agencies for the dissemination of public information are needed. The third major concern of the private sector is the copying of copyrighted materials from network resources, as noted above.