As some of you probably know, I prefer bits and bytes to paper. So it should be no surprise that I rather like that the University of Texas at Austin has replaced the books in one of their libraries with a digital friendly study space:
By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library’s 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.
Note that the books are not being removed completely, just moved to other library locations. There are many educators who will frown upon this decision by the University of Texas, but I think they are just unwilling to change their way of thinking. Does it really make sense to start with books? Books are definitely valuable resources, they have been for a long time, and will continue to be for a long time. However, searching through shelves of books or stacks of documents isn’t efficient. Start with the computer to get to the right book.
It should be noted too that many universities and their libraries are making books and other print material available in digital form. Combined with the transformation of certain libraries into digital centres, I think what we’re seeing is more of the “on demand” culture. Thanks to TiVo and similar services, you can get TV on demand. Thanks to podcasting, you can get audio on demand. There’s definitely a trend here, and all the University of Texas’ decision proves is that libraries and books are not immune.
“There’s a real transition going on,” said Sarah Thomas, past president of the Association of Research Libraries and the librarian at the Cornell University Library in Ithaca, N.Y. “This is not to say you don’t have paper or books. Of course, they’re sacred. But more and more we’re delivering material to the user as opposed to the user coming into the library to get it.”
What you want, when you want it, and where you want it. Welcome to the future of, well everything, it seems!
Read: New York Times