September 17, 2010
While more colleges are reducing the amount of print volumes in their libraries, including Stanford University, the University of Texas at San Antonio is "the nation's first completely bookless library on a college or university campus", reported the school in a recent press release.
UTSA officials opened the Applied Engineering and Technology (AET) Library last week and unlike any other college library, its collection of books is only available electronically. Its growing catalogue currently includes 425,000 e-books and 18,000 e-journals that students have access to from anywhere on- or off-campus, reported Library Journal. The 80-person capacity library is a contemporary space that includes furnished study areas, ten desktop computers, five LCD screens that students can use for projects or to view news and information, a printer and a scanner. Skilled science and engineering librarians are also available during library hours to assist students and faculty.
According to the press release, the trend to move college library book collections online began in October 2000, when Kansas State University opened the Fiedler Engineering Library. Since then many more libraries, especially science and engineering ones, have followed suit, reported Inside Higher Ed. Because of the trend, more and more schools are reimagining the physical space of libraries. While there may be fewer books, the library is still a shared space for studying and socializing, said Krisellen Maloney, dean of libraries at San Antonio. "That's how libraries have always been. When people come to the library with books, they're not necessarily using the books. They're also there for the services...," she explained. As a result, UTSA noted in its press release that the new library has a series of group study niches and rooms to encourage teamwork, communication and problem solving. "In this library, we encourage collaboration. This is the beginning of [the students'] training as professional engineers and scientists," said Maloney.
According to Library Journal, the transition to the new bookless library has been smooth. UTSA had a "soft" opening in May, which allowed students to use the library over the summer. Since its initial opening, an average of 1,000 students per week have physically visited; statistics on offsite users have not yet been collected. Furthermore, the press release added that students like the fact that books are more accessible since many students can simultaneously view the same volume. Library staff is also more available now that they do not have circulate and reshelf books.
The eLibrary is not the end, however. UTSA plans to take its bookless library even further--in the next few months, school officials plan to provide pre-loaded eReader devices, including the Apple iPad and Amazon Kindle, for students to check out and take home.
Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff
"A Truly Bookless Library," insidehighered.com, September 17, 2010, Steve Kolowich
"University of Texas at San Antonio Opens 'Bookless Library'," libraryjournal.com, September 15, 2010, David Rapp
"UTSA opens nation's first bookless library on a university campus," utsa.edu, September 9, 2010, Christi Fish