Anne Wolpert characterizes the current situation of research libraries:
In describing the state of the MIT Libraries in the 21 st century, we sometimes humorously characterize our situation as having “one foot on the dock, and one foot in the dinghy.” Considerable amounts of time, energy, and resources are dedicated to maintaining the traditional library environment (the “dock”) on which the MIT community still remains heavily and documentably reliant for research and education. At the same time, however, a significant and growing amount of our effort must now be dedicated to trying to anticipate and influence the complex emerging digital environment (the “dinghy”) that will inevitably shape academic research library collections and services in the future.
Any sailor knows that having one foot on the dock, and the other in a dinghy, can be an uneasy balancing act -and that the connections between the dock and the dinghy must be carefully attended to as people and materiel are transferred from one place to the other. It’s important that the dinghy not depart prematurely -for obvious reasons, but it’s also important to separate crisply when the time is right. And, of course, even with the best seamanship, should the weather turn bad, or a chop develop in the water, the situation can get downright uncomfortable.