Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Say bye-bye to the books, kids

From yesterday's The Book Standard:

When undergraduates at the University of Texas at Austin return to their main library this fall, they won’t be thumbing through rows of books resting on shelves. Instead, at the refurbished Flawn Academic Center, they’ll plug in and log on: Flawn was recently emptied of its 90,000 volumes of printed text, with the books moved to other libraries across the campus. And odd as a book-less library may seem, UT Austin isn’t the only undergraduate institution adopting such a model. In undergrad libraries across the country, colleges and universities are going digital in hopes of keeping today’s students—who are more comfortable using the Internet than the card catalogue for their academic needs—coming through the doors.

As someone who spends more time sifting through news and commentary on the internet than perusing my morning newspaper (which I barely spend ten minutes with these days--I'm about ready to cancel my subscription), I understand the move. As someone who uses the internet for research because library books on the subjects I want are rarely current enough to suit me, I understand the move. And as someone who will look up a quote on the internet because I can find it faster that way than hunting up a dusty book on my shelf and paging through it, I understand the move.

But as a lover of print books, I'm sad. I appreciate having a choice between print books and the internet; I know I can always snuggle up on my sofa with a nice, friendly book on my lap. But the distinct possibility that a large portion of our next generation will never be exposed to books bothers me a lot.

A few decades from now, will somebody start a back-to-paper movement?


Julana said...


Neal said...

Hi Brenda. A "back to paper movement" is with us now, at least in terms of organization. See sites like,, and many of the sites they link to.

Anonymous said...

this generation, is missing out on a lot of things, I myself think we should slow down and back to a slower pace ;)

Danica said...

I'm a paper lover myself... and although I did my last mega research projects almost ten years ago, I always thought the paper sources better than the Internet. Ah well... to each his own I suppose

Anonymous said...

I will always prefer and own print books.

But I remember college, and needing a particular volume and it being "checked out" or you could only keep it one week cause it was in high demand.

With pc's so common, if a university library (or all of them) transfer works in their possession to electronically available "books", any student who needs it can read it at home or in the dorm, without walking to the library, finding it's not there, and putting themselves on the wait list. Universities could cooperate, and suddenly, a small town college could have access to the library catalog of a Yale or a Harvard.

I think the possibilities are thrilling for students and scholars.

Of course, someone would have to work out compensation for publishers/authors, and university virtual libraries would be limited to students and faculty and scholars for serious study use--some sort of subscription and password.

Or maybe it'll come down to still going to the library, and having to use your student id to access the on-site computers with full national libraries.


But still, exciting!


pacatrue said...

Something seems wrong with this story, or I don't quite get it. My memory is that there are over a million print volumes in the UT libraries. This refers to 9% of them. Where are the other 91% of the books? And it sounds like the books will still be there, just distributed differently. I am not sure this is quite the death knell for the printed volume that it sounds. Besides, if they have digitized every single item they have, I'll eat my hat - if I wore one.

Brenda Coulter said...

Pacatrue, that was just the main library at UT. I imagine there are still plenty of books at the law school's library and all of the others.

I hope you don't mind my saying so, but you type very well for a llama. ;-)