Arts & Humanities Vision for 2029

June 1, 2004

The year 2029 will see a seamless integration of the print and electronic
resources needed by scholars and students in the arts and humanities
disciplines.  With the growing body of scholarship created and ‘published’
by universities and research and other cultural organizations here and
abroad, a network of inter-linked servers will provide permanent access to
the shared cultural products of the world.  In part because of the
ubiquity of current scholarship, the print collection will become even
more valuable, because of the uniqueness of the items.  Substantial
progress will have been made on transferring the immeasurably rich content
of the Library’s print collection to a comprehensive electronic
collection, through a matured digitize-and-deliver-on-demand technology.
The Library will serve as a repository for permanent copies of the current
scholarly output as well as the historical collection.  One of the
Library’s roles will be to deliver transient or transactional copies of
these permanent collections to members of the Library’s user communities
in whatever format is appropriate to the material and the user’s
preferences.   With computing power available on a wide range of
materials, the delivery choice could come down to the simple question:
paper or plastic?

Intellectual access to the material in the shared scholarly collections
will be accessible through in-depth cataloging/indexing, created
simultaneously with the content.  The artificial distinctions in terms of
levels of access between material published as chapters of books and
articles published as parts of a journal will have been erased, although
the structural inter-links of each will be maintained for orderly
scholarly communication and organization.  Through cooperative
international efforts, similar access will be created to the vast print
collections of the network of nationally important libraries including the
University of Illinois.

Just as scholarly praxis in the humanities differs from the norms and
methods of scholarship in the sciences, so too within the humanities
there exists a wide spectrum of research methodologies and strategies,
and entirely new scholarly approaches will emerge with new forms of
interdisciplinary scholarship.  We will continue to appreciate the
heterogeneity of scholarship and to support and facilitate the diversity
of scholarly needs and approaches within the academy.

Because of the ability to digitize and deliver material on demand, the
stacks will be largely transformed into a production facility.  As each
item is digitized, subject librarians will determine if it will go to the
similarly re-purposed storage facility for conservation/preservation
activities as needed in preparation for permanent residence under ideal
conditions while remaining available to scholars.

The increase in the accessibility of information will result in an
increasing dependence on the subject expertise of librarians to help guide
users through the materials.  Finding a star in the sky is not a
challenge, finding the right star in the sky is.  Subject librarians’
knowledge of the organization and principles of a scholarly discipline
will be an essential element of both the creation of the intellectual
access to materials and the retrieval of that material for use. Subject
specialists in the arts and humanities will perform a vital role in
transmitting the conventions and customs of our print heritage to students
and scholars whose first language, so to speak, will be digital rather
than print-based.