Thursday, July 08, 2010

Stanford Ushers In The Age Of Bookless Libraries (National Public Radio)

by Laura Sydell

The periodical shelves at Stanford University’s Engineering Library are nearly bare. Library chief Helen Josephine says that in the past five years, most engineering periodicals have been moved online, making their print versions pretty obsolete — and books aren't doing much better.

According to Josephine, students can now browse those periodicals from their laptops or mobile devices.

For years, students have had to search through volume after volume of books before finding the right formula — but no more. Josephine says that "with books being digitized and available through full text search capabilities, they can find that formula quite easily."

In 2005, when the university realized it was running out space for its growing collection of 80,000 engineering books, administrators decided to build a new library. But instead of creating more space for books, they chose to create less.

The new library is set to open in August with 10,000 engineering books on the shelves — a decrease of more than 85 percent from the old library. Stanford library director Michael Keller says the librarians determined which books to keep on the shelf by looking at how frequently a book was checked out. They found that the vast majority of the collection hadn't been taken off the shelf in five years.

Full story (with audio)

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