Are libraries dead? No, they’re changing.

books1Today’s Inside Higher Education has an interesting piece about “Bookless Libraries“.“Let’s face it: the library, as a place, is dead,” “Kaput.”  exclaims Suzanne E. Thorin, dean of libraries at Syracuse University in the article. But is the library dead or is the concept of the library changing as more materials are delivered electronically? I can’t tell you the last time I sat foot in my university library, there’s no need. All the research resources I need are online. I do fondly remember the days as a student of wandering through the stacks of journals, flipping through the archives after I’d already found what I was looking for. But I don’t have to do that anymore with the search capabilities and journal access provided by my university and Google. I’m only disadvantaged but the ludicrous policy of some publishers to delay publishing full-text articles in digital format by months, sometimes a year.

The November issue of Campus Technology addresses the changing concept and design of libraries in their article “A Space for Collaboration“. The article highlights several initiatives to redefine the library space. The Taylor Family Digital Library at the University of Calgary is designed with more work space for students to work collaboratively. Many workspaces will feature digital touch tables and digital globes that use the touch table capability in a geographic context. The Orrade library at Santa Clara University  provides “educational experimentation rooms” where faculty try out new learning environments.

It’s not so much that libraries as a place is dead, but their purpose is changing. Do we really need to house print copies of so many books and journals anymore? Probably not. Libraries should convert their spaces into meeting places for research and study. As Inside Higher Education article points out, academics from a number of disciplines are not only going online for the library needs, but are creating new “online environments [that] are, in effect, libraries themselves; they are diffuse, collaborative, non-hierarchical, always changing.” Though certainly true, the immediacy of human contact, especially for student study groups in an academic setting rather than a social setting like a student union building is good. Social spaces provided in student buildings tend, in my opinion, to be somewhat distracting. To have a dedicated space to go to, away from a noisy dorm room or the clatter of an office hallway is a preferable. Libraries can become places to share ideas and provide space for conducting workshops, which come to think of it, was the reason I last visited my university library. And at these new libraries are those who can provide immediate help in finding the resources to conduct our education and research, librarians.

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About Michael Ritter PhD
Professor of Geography at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, science textbook author, educational technology blogger, podcaster, and freelance media consultant.

One Response to Are libraries dead? No, they’re changing.

  1. The article is splended and it reminds me with a similar article asking : Does microfilm is dead?

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