Among Harvard's Libraries: The Coming Revolution in Knowledge

Michael Crichton

Based on a 1991 address given by novelist Michael Crichton (1942–2008) at the Meeting of the Overseers’ Committee to Visit the Harvard Library, this conversational essay (HLB New Series 3.1, Spring 1992) is at once an autobiographical sketch of how technology impacted his experiences and workflows as a writer; a survey of recent and new technologies available to researchers; and a prediction of how libraries would have to cope with the surge of information made possible by computing and electronic storage. During his long career, Crichton wrote a great many cautionary tales about the seductive, unpredictable, and often uncontrollable power inherent in scientific and technological innovation, perhaps exemplified best by his best-known novel, Jurassic Park (1990). At the same time, his essay warns that new media and modes of transmitting information will shape 21st-century scholarship and in turn the way libraries function. “The challenges that libraries face are daunting, and the cost of conversion to the new digital world may seem alarming,” he writes. “But in confronting this new and powerful technology, the cost of delay is far greater.”

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