The Future is . . . SNARB?

Margaret Landesman, in an op-ed piece for the Charleston Advisor, imagines the possible result of several trends – coming up with a product that merges publishing, libraries, and bookstore functions into a powerful course management system that is as responsive to users as the most 2.0 systems can be.

SNARB provides textbooks, curricular materials (course packs, lab notebooks), and assigned readings in the format(s) of your choice. SNARB also provides added choices for the identification and delivery of research materials–whether it is three peer-reviewed articles, suggested articles for a term paper bibliography, or a literature search as you begin work on an advanced degree.

Of course, in order to get the most out of SNARB, you need to let it track all of your searches, your purchases, and your e-mail. But by giving up your privacy, you get so much customized service!

Apart from privacy issues, SNARB has the potential to disrupt the institutions it is enhancing.

Like librarians, publishers are unsure about SNARB’s effects on their future. Unlike librarians, if they guess wrong, we often hear they have left “to pursue other interests.” This is why publishers are more nervous than librarians. You would be, too.

Landesman introduces her futuristic view by saying “I wanted to write something provocative and a bit funny, thinking about the shrinking differences between libraries and bookstores; and about what happens for good and ill as we are able to search across greater and greater aggregations from disparate parts of our lives.” In one imaginative piece, she gathers together possible answers for many of the questions we’re facing – answers that don’t resolve all the issues.

For example, students will recieve a “text allowance,” but when that runs out will have to pay for any additional information. Though this is one way to approach textbook costs, another one is to legislate publisher and faculty behavior. Several states are passing laws to discourage “bundling” and encourage used textbook sales, as this Chronicle article, “New Laws on the Books” describes.

By the way, what does SNARB stand for? “We have no clue. You ought to be able to think of something.” Hey, user-defined acronyms are the next 2.0 trend.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

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