Library inconveniences

Over the past few years, the MUSC library has been moving towards largely digital access to its journal collection. Having access to journal articles online is pretty convenient for the most part. Pubmed makes doing literature searches pretty easy these days, and generally links to the journal's website where, if the site detects you're coming from an authorized IP address, you can read and/or download a copy of the article.

This is all fine unless you're looking for journal articles that are older than the 90s. Before that access to the digital version is hit or miss. Some journals have digitized their entire collection. Others only have abstracts for older volumes. Others have nothing. For the latter two cases you need to make a trip to the library to look up the journal volume in the stacks (if it's in the library collection) or request a copy through inter-library loan (ILL).

Recently the MUSC Library got rid of most of the journal collection to make room for more something (not sure what) in the library. Now for older journal articles that aren't available online, I have to do an ILL request to get a copy instead of just making the trip down the hall to dig the volume I want out of the stacks. Usually it comes as a PDF of the scanned paper version from another library and can take 2-3 days. It's a relatively minor inconvenience, but it got me thinking.

What happens when other libraries start doing the same thing and clearing out their journal collections? Where will ILL requests get filled from?

In a very short period of time, people have become almost completely dependent on getting their information from online sources. However, there are still orders of magnitude more information that simply doesn't exist or only partially exists in digital format.

What happens if libraries aren't able to support their physical collections anymore? Where will that non-digitally archived information come from?

It also takes away one of the reasons I have left for visiting the library.