Sometimes the only way to make progress is to leave something behind.
Note: This is a story from our sister publication, EdTech: Focus on Higher Education. This story highlights the shift from print to digital books in college libraries, which is a trend that we're also starting to see in K-12 school districts.
For many students and faculty, the library is the core of the learning environment on campus. The role of the library hasn’t changed much, but the technology is evolving constantly. The presence of physical books is consistent in nearly all libraries, and that won’t be changing in the near future, according to The New York Times.
Carole Wedge, president of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott, an architecture firm in Boston that has redesigned dozens of college libraries for the computer age, said most were built "as boxes to house print collections." The challenge, Ms. Wedge said, is to adapt them to what she called "the Barnes & Noble culture, making reading and learning a blurred experience."
Rarely do today's students hunt for a book in the stacks, she said. Now they go online and may end up with a book, but also a DVD or other medium. But, she said, "it's unlikely there will be libraries without books for a long time."
Here are three libraries that are leading the way in education technology.
The University of Chicago believes that print books are a vital part of the learning experience.
As more books and journals become easily accessible online, it’s easy to wonder if brick-and-mortar libraries could go the way of the video store. But research at the university has shown that the more people look to digital resources, the more they consult physical materials as well, according to Judith Nadler, director of the University of Chicago Library.
The university built its new library to accommodate print books in an underground warehouse. Students and faculty can request books, which are retrieved by a robot. This means the library needs just one-seventh of the space required to house the books in a traditional library and brings the best of print and digital to the university.
San Francisco State University took an approach similar to that of the University of Chicago. A robot, seen in the video above, retrieves books that have been scanned and stored. The library makes about 25 percent of its books available for browsing, which is becoming a standard approach.
The move to organize libraries this way is becoming more common. More than a dozen universities, including at least five in California, have installed the systems, according to the manufacturer. The system can allow colleges to store more books; for instance, San Francisco State plans to bring volumes once held offsite back to campus.
Stanford is part of Google’s book-search project. The university is moving away from print books by scanning every page of selected books into a searchable database, focusing on works that are politically or historically significant. Much of the scanning, previously done by hand, is now accomplished using a robot that can scan more than 1,000 pages per hour.