The not really "bookless" library

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Apparently people are freaking out over Stanford University's announcement that they are building a bookless library. But the Book Bench points out that Stanford isn't making a statement on paper vs. digital books. Rather, they're dealing with the logistical nightmare of having too many books:

Books aren’t obsolete; they’re so ubiquitous that they can’t even fit into a traditional campus and, like mushrooms, branch underground to cover entire states. In that light, reactions to the “bookless” Stanford library seem to be missing the point. They’re more a sign of how Manichean gut-feelings about literature are these days—either the digital world is an insidious devil, reluctantly acquiesced to or assiduously avoided, or the Internet is about to usher in a renaissance of reading, and digitization is a kind of messiah shedding light and learning on the world. Everyone knows there’s a middle ground but, when the whiff of a word like “bookless” floats about, no one ever seems to be standing on it.

Actually, it's not a "bookless" library anyway; Stanford and other universities are moving little-used books to storage facilities. The library then becomes more of a storefront where students search for the books they need, which may or may not be stored on site. It's not doing away with books, it's just changing the delivery mechanism.