I am not so young as to have grown up with computers all around me. When I was in elementary school my dad used to cart home an Apple IIe for us to play with and eventually he bought one for the family. But I didn't even have a computer in college (mainly because I thought it was an unnecessary expense) until the spring of my senior year (in 1996) when the 10-page limit of my electronic word processor was starting to become problematic (I was writing a senior thesis, and trust me when I say it was more than 10 pages).
Anwyay, computers and the internet are now a completely integral part of my life (academia, photography, news, email, etc.), and so I might be biased in what I'm about to say, but I also think that I'm right about the direction academic libraries need to go in.
When I first got to grad school and started doing intensive library research, I was always really happy when my library didn't own something I needed. That meant I didn't have to take a physical trip to the library (time spent) or pay for the copies (paper and money wasted) and even better that I would get a scanned copy sent to me. That meant I could save the copy on my hard drive instead of filing a paper copy and always having to cart it around (e.g., moving between home and the office). Happily, shortly after getting there, my school started offering email transmission of scanned articles that the library does own, and they opened this program up to faculty and graduate students. At first, I didn't get why they would include graduate students in this because it seemed like a lot of work for the library, and aren't graduate students supposed to be the grunt labor of a university? But then I reasoned that maybe they were trying to digitize their library, and what better way to figure out where the most immediate need is than to work on the articles currently being requested by both graduate students and faculty.
So when I got to my new university, now as a post-doc, I went over to the library and asked whether they have this service. Now granted I asked at the check out desk and not information so maybe they didn't know, but they practically laughed in my face at the idea. However, a few days later I discovered that they do offer this service, but only to faculty. I wasn't sure if I would count as faculty, but thought that I would be likely to be closer to faculty than to student status, especially since my ID card lists me as faculty and my library status lists me as faculty. But no, it turns out I am not eligible for this service, which means that whenever I need an article that my library owns, I have to walk over there, pay for the copies, and only get a paper copy.
So one reason I think this is silly is because many of these articles ARE being scanned somewhere by the publishers (or they are digital to begin with) or even by our own library (for sending to other libraries that we have loan agreements with). So we're just duplicating efforts and that seems silly. Couldn't they open the database up to students who could see whether an article is digitally available, and only if it's not would they have to make a physical trip to the library. Or if the issue is that going directly to the publisher or database is expensive, what about installing scanners so that you have the option of scanning the article (rather than wasting paper by photocopying, but still with an option to print if you need it) and basically use crowd-sourcing to digitize your library? (And I'm sure it would be easy enough to implement a complaint system so that the library could be alerted to bad scan jobs.)
But, well, no one asked me.
I'm curious though, what do you think? Am I missing something about licensing or fees, or even the cost of scanning?