I have an extreme soft spot for libraries, as I’m sure many of you who are reading this do as well. They’ve always been a place of comfort, knowledge and escape for me. I even worked at the library of the University I was attending back when I was pursuing my degree in English. However, when I revisited this library a few years after graduation I was shocked with what it’s become.
With the creation and emergence of e-books, the literary world has changed forever and most of it has been for the better. Authors can self-publish now and reach a vast audience with an e-book, where they may have struggled before. Many of us no longer have to tote a massive book bag around to accommodate our reading habits and we can read a book at click of a mouse now. However, with all of this convenience, most of us would never give up the touch, feel and smell of the real thing or the experience of browsing a bookstore or a library.
When I went to revisit this University library I walked into a brand new building that is half the size of the previous library I was used to. I thought to myself that there is no way that this is a library now. I mean, in all seriousness, where are all the books?! I was horrified to discover that in the last few years the University put 75% of their books into storage and had opened a ‘Digital Library’. I was literally flabbergasted. What is a library without books? The building that used to contain twelve glorious stories of books is now an office building and this massive University has turned their library into a fancy and expensive looking internet café. Students can now get the content they need for their studies from the internet catalouge. I do admit the thought of being able to get some resources directly to my computer would have been helpful for some of my essays during my years as a student, however, nothing was more helpful than actually having the book in my hand. I don’t know if I’m even capable of retaining information from content I’ve read from an internet journal without the ability to touch the page, place a sticky or a bookmark something for easy reference.
I am beyond sad with this transition. I understand the need to have resources available through the internet but to remove most of the books from a library is a step too far and not in the right direction. How will students know the reward of researching and find their own sources? How will they ever appreciate a library if all they know of one is rows and rows of computers and docking stations? Where is the beauty in that? I do believe that a great balance can be found between books and technology but the obliteration of the need for a physical book is beyond me. But maybe I am turning into an old lady at the ripe age of thirty.
Has a library close to you undergone a similar change?
*Photo: University of Calgary Digital Library