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College Libraries: On the Way Out?

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College libraries are gradually housing fewer and fewer books. In many cases the volumes that remain are dusty and uncirculated, almost acting as “decorations” to remind students what libraries used to look like.

Bookless College Libraries

Although most school libraries are devoting less space to printed books in favor of electronic resources— which many students prefer anyway—the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Applied Engineering and Technology Library now has the distinction of being completely a completely bookless library.

Inside Higher Ed provided information about about college libraries, reporting that the idea of school libraries with no “real books” has been a recurring theme in academic planning for a long time.

Roger Schonfeld, the managing director of Ithaka S+R, a nonprofit group that promotes innovation in libraries, feels that, “The fact that San Antonio has actually built a literal version of what many in the industry hold up as symbol of the inevitability of electronic as the prevailing medium in academe may be commendable, but it is not earth-moving.”

Stanford University Placed Library Books in Storage

The University of Texas library isn’t alone. Stanford University also made headlines back in May when it announced that books from their Physics and Engineering libraries were being placed in storage and being replaced with a completely computerized reference desk, Kindle e-readers, and an online search tool linked to 28 online databases that can scan more than 12,000 scientific journals.

Why Are College Libraries Putting Books in Storage?

Stanford says it is simply running out of room to store a steady flood of books—the school purchases at least 100,000 volumes per year! “The role of this new library is less to do with shelving and checking out books,” said Andrew Herkovic, director of communications and development at Stanford Libraries, “and much more about research and discovery.”

According to Inside Higher Ed, Lisa Hinchliffe, president of the Association of College and Research Libraries, says that the as more and more college libraries devote less space to printed books, the universities are able to “reimagine” the physical space of the library. It does not matter if the school library keeps some of its former print collection or none of it, the evolution of the library is something that must be dealt with.

Are Librarians even Necessary?

The current condition of the United States economy has colleges and universities dealing with budget cuts and less funding than ever before, which brings a question to the table. If libraries full of books are beginning to be a thing of the past, are college librarians even necessary these days?

Value of Academic Libraries by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of the American Library Association, is a new report released September 14, 2010. One of the report’s main goals is to provide academic librarians with ways to identify the most promising best practices and measures correlated to performance.

“Community college, college, and university librarians no longer can rely on their stakeholders’ belief in their importance,” Megan Oakleaf, an assistant professor of information studies at Syracuse University, wrote in the report. “Rather, they must demonstrate their value.”


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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