Tuesday, September 8, 2009

That had better be some really good cappuccino

This story has popped up in a few different places over the past few days.

I do think we are slowly and most likely inevitably moving towards a world in which most information is accessed electronically, and we're not going to get there if we keep waiting for the "just right" moment to make a switch.

However.

I don't think a $50,000 coffee shop—complete with $12,000 cappuccino machine—is necessarily indicative of a desire to be on the forefront of electronic access to school library material.

Electronic text has a lot to offer—one of the reasons I find it so appealing is that it is much easier to make electronic text accessible to students with print-based disabilities. But physical books still have their place, and we are still a ways away from having everything available electronically. I think moving towards increased electronic access makes sense, but making that move simply because books take up "too much space" seems short-sighted to me.

The most depressing part of this story for me is how sad the librarian is about the change. I can't imagine being in her position. If you're going to move this significant, the librarian should be completely on board—if she's not, I have a hard time believing that the change is in the best interest of the school.

A library is much, much more than its books. Just because the library has gone digital it doesn't mean that students and teachers will all of a sudden understand how to navigate all of this information; I would argue that information literacy instruction is even more important in after such a radical shift in how students and teachers access resources.

It may be possible to have a library without books. But this doesn't sound like a library without books. It sounds like a coffee shop.

3 comments:

  1. Electronic text certainly has its advantages. (Its ability to be in more than one "place" at the same time neatly resolves some of the collocation issues discussed in your last post). But you lose the ability to browse through it and stumble into interesting things entirely by accident the way you can fanning through actual pages or browsing stacks.

    Plus, there's a whole host of other issues inherent in the brave new world of electronic text. From the article, it sounds like they're at least partially relying on Kindles. Those were the devices that Amazon used (in a "you can't make this stuff up" moment) to delete copies of 1984 after they changed their minds about selling them.

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  2. Exactly. There's a lot of things I love about electronic text (it very neatly solves the problem of my lack of additional shelving space), but there's too many issues for me to move 100% to electronic text. Who's to say that the e-books they're spending thousands of dollars on will still be compatible with the readers that come after the Kindle? And--as you point out--who's to say that will even still have access to those books for years to come? While disposal of old, outdated books can be a hassle, in my library *I* prefer to be the one making those decisions, thankyouverymuch.

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