IN THE MAIN ARTICLE IN THIS issue of Ariadne, Maurice Line mounts a reasoned defence of the position of national libraries in the electronic age. In doing so, he asserts the continued value of printed information. His view of the future embraces transformed libraries, but it is a transformation based on what the Director of a major university information service called "the continuum of all forms of information sources." Elsewhere in this issue there is a review of the Dearing Report which acknowledges that so far the practical impact of C&IT in learning has been blunted, and in the Minotaur column Louis Schmier hurls a few rocks into the path of the Juggernaut.
Reports from at least one eLib project may well use the term "Luddites" about professional information workers and users who fail to confront new realities. Most people nevertheless display a healthy pragmatism: the degree of development of the electronic library will depend on institutional characteristics and user preferences. There is an inevitability about it and technology offers the best hope of creating the kinds of organisations that will ensure the continued use of the best skills and characteristics of librarians alongside new roles. Even so, there is a process at work which demands a selective, consensual, step by step approach.
What is sometimes lost in this situation is a sense of the mutuality of the old and the new. Electronic information actually increases the demand for conventional sources through the identification of more material which is often provided in print format. A recent issue of The Washington Post carried a report of a 17% increase in hard copy sales for the National Academy Press after they put 1700 titles on the internet, allowing free reading.
Ariadne has always stood on the principle of parallel publication. Its purpose is to bring to the profession a broad understanding of the development of the electronic library. While users still have a deal of catching up to do, the symbiotic link between web and print remains vital. Long may it continue.