willspring55, October 6, 2014
By B Metz
What if you walked into your school library and found it completely devoid of books?
That’s what students at Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland, Fla. found when the school’s brand new library opened its doors last week.
While you won’t find a single physical book in the building, the library does have an assortment of 135,000 electronic books available to students.
“Since we are a new university, we had the option to open totally digital,” says Dr. Kathryn Miller, director of libraries. “The digital resources are part of the university’s mission.”
That mission promises to make strides in STEM fields by preparing modern students to lead in innovative ways. And the best way to do this? Make everything digital.
“To me, it’s amazing,” says freshman Drew Davis, who’s studying electrical engineering with a concentration in control systems. “I think it’s a great step in the right direction.”
Still, other schools aren’t so sure.
“It’s a really bold move,” says David Hiscoe, director of communication strategy at North Carolina State University Libraries.
With its 3D printers and Book Bot system that can retrieve as many as two million volumes, NC State’s James B. Hunt Library prides itself on being technologically savvy. But Hiscoe says print books remain a necessity.
“We loan out 12 million pieces of information a year, and 400,000 of those are print,” he says. “We never thought it was practical to do away with books entirely.”
Librarians at the University of Chicago agree. “Print has its role and digital has its role,” says interim library director Alice Schreyer. “Our philosophy is that both are very important and will continue to be.”
Even with access to e-books, many students still prefer real books. “It’s a different feeling reading something you can physically hold over just reading it online,” says University of Chicago sophomore Casey Kim.
While some schools may not be sold on the idea, FPU students seem to appreciate the efforts their school is making to pioneer the digital movement.
Freshman Logan Micher enjoys being able to save time by quickly finding information he needs when researching a topic. “When you get a print book you spend time reading to find what you need, but with digital, you can go straight in,” the mechanical and industrial engineering major says. “That this much information is available at our fingertips is something other libraries can’t provide.”
In addition to the selection of electronic books already on hand, the university also features a patron-driven collection development plan, which allows students to select books that meet their class requirements. Once the book has been used twice, it’s automatically purchased by the library and added to the collection.
And another perk to the all-digital library? Convenience.
“When I get an assignment, the first place I’m going is the library, before I even do a Google search,” Micher says. “It’s all valid and I can have it in seconds.”
While most schools won’t be making the switch to digital anytime soon, FPU students are content with the school’s decision to go fully digital.
“I’m not surprised that they’ve done this,” Micher says. “It falls in line with the mission statement and everything going on at the university. It just makes sense.”