Libraries to slowly go digital?

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With the bold article title of “Stanford Ushers In The Age Of Bookless Libraries,” (and accompanying Morning Edition story) NPR has sparked a miniature wildfire on the Internet, mainly from tech blogs interested in reporting on the digital aspect of the story. A lot can be inferred by people who only read the headlines and RSS blurbs from the dissemination of this story, so let’s get down to brass tacks:

  • Yes, the new Stanford University Engineering Library will have something on the order of 1/8 the books of the old Engineering Library due to book elimination and digitization
  • No, the world is not ending, nor is every library going to “go digital” and get rid of most if not all of its books

For the college librarians out there (and students who spent a good deal of time in them…raises hand), it’s no surprise that space is always a chief limiting factor for the contents of a library. Also no surprise is that students or faculty never so much as touch the dust covers of a great majority of books therein. Books with technical information can be outdated by new findings, and let’s face it…searching online is much easier (especially with textbook and reference material centric search systems such as Knovel and Google Books).

Digitization is all well and good, but let’s not forget it’s rarely a perfect replacement for bound hardbacks. Optical Character Recognition can be a problem for older books with non-standard typefaces, let alone books that feature equations and symbols that the digitization process may not be able to understand and translate to electronic characters.

Do you want to hold on to the days of pouring through the stacks or are you ready for the all-digital future? Make your case in the comments!

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This post was edited by Intellogist Team member Chris Jagalla.


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