With the use of physical books on the decline and the rising demand for digital resources, the way that we look at libraries as a whole is quickly changing. The way that libraries are being utilized is also changing, especially on college campuses. I don’t think there is one right answer to the question “What does the library of the future look like?” in the same way that there isn’t one standard library right now. I do think, however, that Tech is doing the right thing in being one of the first in the nation to move towards the idea of a bookless library and defining what that is.
One of the biggest reasons for making the transition to a bookless library is a change in habits of library visitors. According to the Georgia Tech Library Statistics Dashboard, there has been a gradual increase in visitors to the library over the past 10 years. While there was a gate count of almost 900,000 in 2004, there was a gate count of more than 1,300,000 in 2013.
There has, however, been a decrease in the amount of print by more than half. While there were more than 80,000 print book checkouts in 2003, there were fewer than 40,000 print book checkouts made in 2012. Ultimately, this means that a lot of the print collections in the library are simply not being used. They’re taking up space that could be better utilized as study or gathering space for students, faculty and staff.
While print book checkouts have gone down, the circulation of digital media usage has remained at high levels. In 2012, there were recorded 2,628,140 searches of subscription databases, according to Guy Leach, the Electronic Collections Coordinator in the Library. The amount that these databases are accessed suggests that there is demand for more space for computers in the library.
I do realize that there will always be those who say that a book in hand is better than a .pdf file or eBook, but times are changing. Considering how old some of the collections are in the Library, paper and glue will deteriorate when kept in certain conditions just due to the nature of the material.
The new EmTech Library Services Center is the answer to this. The administration in the library is promising that even though this new facility will be on Emory’s campus, it will still be easily accessible to anyone from the Tech community. Some of the enhancements being promised include on-demand scanning services, multiple deliveries of print material per day and a reading room in the EmTech Library Services Center.
There are so many possibilities with the future. I mean, could you imagine having print collections delivered to Tech by drone like the prototype in the video for Amazon Prime Air? There could be a large number of eReaders, iPads or other type of tablets where users can access online resources made readily available for rent while in the library.
Ultimately, without print collections going into this new building, there would be more usable space, which I think is essential and what many are looking for. Regardless of how that space is split, I think that quiet study space like the current third floor must be kept around. Collaborative study and meeting space could also be extended with the addition of more space in the building.
According to Ameet Doshi, the User Engagement and Assessment Coordinator in the Library, Brightspot has been selected as a consultant and BNIM has been selected as the architectural firm for moving towards renovation and construction of the Dorothy M. Crosland Tower and Price Glibert Memorial Library.
Even though all of this will be happening after my time here at Tech has ended, I’m looking forward to seeing how we revolutionize the idea of libraries and embrace the idea of this building being bookless.