With all apologies to Shakespeare and Ray Bradbury, I am not talking Fahrenheit 451 here. I am talking the new Engineering Library, opening this August, at Stanford U, now with 85% fewer books! Apparently, the reduction is due in some measure to lack of interest – many volumes hadn’t been checked out in five years or more. To combat literary overcrowding, the new library will be lean and mean with 10,000 physical volumes representing the library’s most popular books, compared to the prior, more than 80,000 dusty tomes crowding the shelves. The materials will still be available in searchable, digitized form and brows-able from laptop or “other” mobile device.
Library administrators foresee a time when the library will hold no physical books at all. Engineering is a rapidly changing field. Thus, the material upon which engineers rely must change quickly. Sound familiar, lawyers? Faculty already embrace e-books, which are more responsive to these changes. And faculty and library staff can see how students’ interactions with material have changed dramatically, as new students rely more heavily on virtual information for reading, research and composition.
Stanford is not alone in this. Quoting from the NPR Digital Life article (link here), where I found this story:
And while it’s still rare among American libraries to get rid of such a large amount of books, it’s clear that many are starting to lay the groundwork for a different future. According to a survey by the Association of Research Libraries, American libraries are spending more of their money on electronic resources and less on books.
Lawyers, law librarians, and legal publishers, take heed. The paper book, as a research or reference device, may well be on its way out and practitioners will welcome the ability to scan and search treatises online. It’s the wave of the future.
You can listen to the NPR story here: