Are College Libraries About to Become Bookless?

Thanks to the electronic book revolution, in the next decade, we could see the end of centralized campus libraries with hardbound texts.

The number of colleges using electronic textbooks available to students is on the rise. But what about the rest of the books on campus—the millions of volumes stored in the library? It turns out the digital text revolution is beginning to turn college libraries into places that no longer stock physical books.

As Time reports, the engineering libraries at Kansas State University, Stanford and the University of Texas are almost completely book-free. And now at Drexel University in Philadelphia, the new Library Learning Terrace, a 3,000 square foot residence hall-based space that opened in June, there are no books at all.

According to Danuta Nitecki, the dean of libraries at Drexel, the terrace is book-free since the role of libraries is changing. "We don't just house books, we house learning," she says. That means defining "a new kind of library environment," one that's decentralized across the campus. Indeed, the space is more like a study lounge. There are cozy chairs, movable tables for study groups meetings and gigantic whiteboards. And, since Drexel already has 170 million electronic books, journals or other academic material in their collection, all students need to do to access them is get online. If they don't know exactly what research source they should be looking for, librarians will be staffing the space, bringing their expertise to the students.

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