A bookless library isn’t an oxymoron

“I have long contended that a room full of books is simply a closet but that an empty room with a librarian in it is a library.”   R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship

A bookless library doesn’t need shelves.
Florida Polytechnic University is a brand new University that has opened with what has been referred to as a bookless library.   I am not sure bookless is an accurate term to use because the library does provide access to ebooks, it is just that there are no dead tree versions of books (or journals) housed in the library.  While eschewing print may seem like a radical move, in fact many libraries are moving more and more of their collections to electronic and using the physical library space as a “commons” area.  At Florida Polytechnic, they are embracing this idea, trying to embed the library seamlessly into the fabric of the university.  For example, librarians are in classrooms teaching about plagiarism, and faculty spend time working in the library. 

With the planning for the renovation of Langsdale Library underway, we have been thinking a lot about the future of library buildings. While we don’t have plans to remove the print collection entirely, the vast majority of our content is already in electronic form, and we have been able to devote more and more room to the provision of varied and flexible learning spaces.    The results of thinking about our collections and space in this way can be seen in the layout of our current location on the 3rd and 4th floor of the Learning Commons.   

What should the renovated library look like and what services should it provide?  It is hard to say for sure, but I think the key is to stay flexible.  Even if we decide we want a “commons”, there is no one learning commons model  that is right for every university, plus we don’t know what future trends might come down the pike.  I would like to think that one thing librarians have learned over the past few decades is how to adapt to a changing environment.   So whatever the future may hold, we’ll be ready for it. I hope.

2 Replies to “A bookless library isn’t an oxymoron”

  1. I prefer libraries maintain a mix of mediums. As for ebooks, they are such a pain. One example is happening to me now, as I attempt to view an ebook via UB then to EBSCO host. The book is completely unreadable as there are special characters appearing in every white space. The alternate is to download the full text, but that requires an active account with EBSCO. Maybe I need that, not sure, but it's a pain.

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