Thursday, August 25, 2005

Empty? Deserted? uh, no, actually ...

The Christian Science Monitor has a piece on the University of Texas's decision to move 90,000 books from their Undergraduate Library and replace them with computers. It sounds like a terrible move, but the fact is the UGLI, as it was known when I was in their MLIS program long ago, was a very small collection, hand-picked for providing somewhat canned materials for a required composition course assignment. A lot of students preferred to use the main library, which is still there with its millions of volumes.

There is always a Sophie's Choice tone to these pieces - what's it gonna be, books or computers? Scott Carlson's famous "Deserted Libraries" story sparked a lot of controversy when it was first published in 2001, but it's the headline that sets off the alarms. In reality, the piece presents a range of issues and talks about libraries that are anything but deserted.

Both stories are about a changing persception of the library as place. Scott Bennett's report on libraries as learning commons shifts the focus from either/or to both and from information to learning. And that makes a lot of sense.


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