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    Technology Forces

    The information technology revolution has affected all library types: public, K-12, academic, and organizational or special including corporate and not-for-profit research libraries. The "information technology revolution" is a vague moniker for a vast array of technological innovations and their rapid application throughout society. Understanding the effects of the revolution depends on understanding two fundamental facts that have driven substantial change: the exponential rate of decline in the costs of digital computation (silicon, i.e., microprocessors), and of digital communication (sand, i.e., fiber optics).

    Gordon Moore of Intel predicted in 1965 that the power of microprocessors available at a given cost would double about every 18 months (Moore, 1965). The equivalent form of Moore's law is that the cost of a given amount of microprocessor power would be cut in half every eighteen months. Moore's prediction has held for thirty years. There have been a number of astonishing technological and industrial advances over the past several centuries, but there is probably nothing that matches this rate of improvement. To give an idea of the power of this exponential cost decline, consider a luxurious house that cost $100,000 to build in 1970.[6] If housing costs had followed Moore's law, then this mansion would cost only $1.67 to build in 2003. Imagine how different the world would be today if mansions cost only $1.67!

    Digital communications technology experienced similar cost declines. In 1994 MacKie-Mason and Varian (1994) documented that digital communications costs had decreased 30% annually for the previous thirty years and, if anything, the rate has accelerated in the past decade.

    The cost collapse in computation and communication fostered the rapid development and deployment of powerful networked information technologies. The explosion of digital networking, cheap storage, and powerful computation and display devices has radically changed the constraints, stakeholder needs, and power relationships on which the institution of research libraries is built.

    In addition to these dramatic cost/performance improvements in computational power and communication, several concurrent trends have shaped the landscape in which libraries interact with other stakeholders. The development of standards for creating and protocols for sharing digital content have stimulated electronic publishing and associated systems of access. As a result, we've seen the rapid development of large-scale repositories of electronic publications by major publishers, and increasingly sophisticated retrieval systems and tools.