Is a Library a Library Without Books?

I was a library junkie when I was a kid. I grew up spending my summers with the Chicago Public Library, first completing the summer reading program and then as a volunteer. I love the smell of books and browsing the shelves for a new find. I still do.

I saw the headline “Is a Bookless Library Still a Library?” on the Time website. Colleges are now creating bookless libraries with lots of seats and computers that have access to the library’s collection of electronic materials.

I suppose this was bound to happen with the advances in technology, but it poses a few great questions. What happens when a server goes down or a power outage happens? How do you access any materials? How do you archive your materials?

I’m old school and I know it. I like being able to make notes on paper and highlight things. Those techniques are what helps me write and outline the point I want to convey to others. Sure you can do all of that on the iPad and the Kindle. Some of you would probably call me a tree killer.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I still love to write drafts out on a legal pad or a journal to outline my thoughts. I couldn’t think of being in college and not having books to put notations with Post-It notes.

What do you guys think? Is a library a library without books? Or is it just a study room? Do you think that bookless libraries are going to be the new trend? Leave me a comment below or tweet me.

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8 thoughts on “Is a Library a Library Without Books?

  1. I don’t think that you could have a university library without books, mostly because there are still tons of specialized materials that aren’t digitized. I did a lot of Russian history papers, and none of the books that I needed access to to do my work were digitized (as of two years ago). Electronic databases are important, but until everything’s online, you can’t replace paper sources.

    • I agree! The next question then is how long will it take to digitize everything? And can you digitize really fragile materials? Thanks so much for your comment!

  2. I would say ‘no’. Perhaps far, far in the future, when people don’t keep, buy or read physical books…but right now, I would feel like I wasn’t in a library at all! And I think some things, no matter what, will never really work in an electronic format.

  3. I think libraries will gradually evolve into some format where both physical and digital books are supported. At the end of the day, there’s something important about exactly what you mention – the post-its, underlines, notes in the margins. Holding an actual book is still an experience, especially when the content is meaningful.

    But I think digital has its role in books that need to be more portable, or when you need to cover wide variety of content about a subject without the depth of a lot of details. Another benefit of digital formats I think is being able to better analyze the language and its connections to other works & context from that time period.

  4. I can definitely see the benefits of going digital. An e-reader or mobile device lets you carry around a huge amount of information in a small electronic device. I have a Kindle, and I’m extremely pleased with the amount of material that’s available to me. I love the cost savings factor; I have tons of books on my Kindle, but have spent less than $10 on digital copies. My Kindle has inspired me to get into the habit of reading again.

    However, as a book lover, I do feel sad that physical copies of books are probably going to be phased out in my lifetime. There’s no way that every book ever created can be converted to a digital copy, but as our world towards a more mobile, digital world, libraries will start to become obsolete.

  5. Pingback: My View on the Potential Amazon Digital Library « Person Of Letters

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