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Book-Free College Libraries? Get Used To It

Can you imagine a college library without books?
Actually, an imagination isn't necessary to picture a book-free library. It's already here.

The University of Texas at San Antonio says it has built the first book-free college library. When the university constructed the library for its applied math and technology holdings, it decided to dedicate the space exclusively for electronic volumes.

If this seems extreme, get used to it. Higher-ed experts say that the bookless library at the University of Texas reflects a trend of minimizing or getting rid of printed volumes in libraries on college campuses across the country. Some library visionaries, including the dean of libraries at Syracuse University, are advocating for fewer books in libraries and more space for students to study and access library holdings on their computers or electronic readers.

Libraries, which have significantly shed some of their printed volumes, include the engineering library at Stanford University and the main library at the University of California, Merced. The engineering library at Kansas State University ditched almost all its volumes a decade ago.

The Argument for Book-Free Libraries

Switching to e-books can save universities big bucks and spare trees. Scholars, who gathered at a workshop sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources, argued that digital technology will "give scholars access to-and the means to analyze-vast bodies of material, while also expanding the audiences for their work, enabling research that was previously impossible."

While experts suggest that e-books will clearly be a major presence in college campuses within the next decade, not all students and faculty are thrilled. Many don't want to lose their ability to discover a book on a shelf or flip through the pages of a journal.

I appreciate the resistance. While I'm curious about the Kindle, Nook and iPad, the thought of no longer buying hardbound books that I can display (and forget about) on my bookshelves seems unfathomable.

In a few years though, I suspect the practice of buying hardbound books is going to be quite alien - at least to young people.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog.
Book-free library image by cdsessums. CC 2.0.