Focus on Issues: Data Storage Dilemmas

By Daniel Martin

One of the most important issues in the field of Library and Information Science today is data storage, be it digital or otherwise, and the impact technological advances have made within the field. While this century has seen more data recorded than any other, we have also lost more information due to information storage methods that soon become obsolete, with few allowances made for transfering of data from medium to medium.

Alexander Stille writes in his work The Future of the Past that with Moore’s Law and the increasing complexity of technology and data storage, we librarians are presented with a number of issues regarding the preservation of information. With the current scope of compact disc technology, data can only be stored for twenty years before needing to be copied again. This does not acknowledge the volatility of certain mediums; a few small scratches can make a CD’s data completely inaccessible.

In addition, since we have advanced so far technologically in a short amount of time, much of the data recorded on older storage formats is now obsolete or inaccessible. For example, the Dictaphone , precursor to the phonograph and record player, employed wax cylinders to record information, as well as plastic belts and metal wire.

It should be noted that while modern methods are more efficient and less esoteric, many older recordings are falling into a state of disrepair, and in a number of cases, we no longer possess the technology to salvage these recordings let alone transfer them to a digital or electronic format. While technology is undoubtedly the wave of the future, unless an effort is made to collect, transfer and preserve this information, we will simply contribute to the trend of equivalent gains and losses in data storage that have defined the previous century.

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