Sunday’s NPR Soundprint: Who Needs Libraries?


Given our ongoing discussion of Darnton’s The Case for Books and the post Anna initiated today on the Google Book Amended Settlement, this Sunday’s edition of NPR’s Soundprint program,Who Needs Libraries? is timely. Click here to listen to the program.


5 Responses to “Sunday’s NPR Soundprint: Who Needs Libraries?”

  1. Anna Battigelli Says:

    This is a thoughtful overview, so thanks, Eleanor.

    It would be interesting to hear how librarians are
    handling the pressure to reconfigure library space
    for things other than books. I can imagine mistakes
    being made, such as throwing out print copies of
    encyclopedias when digital versions are acquired.

    But I also see the need to accommodate changing
    patterns of patron use.


  2. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Anna, are you wondering about storage space? or user space?

    Public libraries, of course, serve different users and purposes than university libraries do. Libraries such as the Folger, the Library Company, etc. serve still other constituents. I’ve witnessed significant changes in user space at university libraries–and those public libraries that have undergone recent renovations (or been completely rebuilt). My gut sense would be that the Folger or the Library Company would not have much of a need to revamp their spaces in major ways because most users would be coming to work with physical copies of their holdings.

    I did wonder about the UNV librarian’s claim about how many students were using the computers in his libraries. I see computers constantly in use, too, at my university’s library, but I didn’t understand what he seemed to be saying about electronic journals–it seemed as if he were saying they were only available onsite. Most universities, however, seem to have provisions for accessing these resources with passwords, etc fro home, dorm rooms, and the like.


  3. Anna Battigelli Says:

    I agree that the claim about using computers in libraries seemed to overlook the fact that access generally requires a password that can be used from any terminal anywhere.

    A different librarian noted that librarians were now reconfiguring library space for things other than for books, and I wanted to hear more about that. Having just read Darnton’s “A Paean to Paper,” which details how an “obsession with space” sometimes degenerates into zeal to destroy books, I was wary of that zeal for reconfiguration. Would we want to, say, throw out printed encyclopedias just because we had britannica online? I don’t think so. They serve different purposes. But that tension between keep books or opening up space is omnipresent–and often the books lose.


  4. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks for the clarification about space.

    Rather than discard books (although the annual library book sales that so many university libraries still hold show that this forming of discarding is certainly going on), the larger university libraries seem to be using off-site storage more and more as well as installing those collapsible shelves (Georgetown’s are powered, but seem to break; University of Maryland’s require the old-fashion, arm muscle).

    As for reconfiguration of library space, these moves on campuses seem geared to providing spaces that meet the need for collaborative work and that can also provide computers arranged to foster this work (instead of the traditional line-up of machines). It seems that so many university libraries now have a coffee cafe/bar. WCU had opened one a few years ago, but it later did some shuffling of other campus space, and now there’s a Starbucks that adjoins and has direct access to the library This move restores the old space used by the coffee cafe to library use. The old-coffee-bar space, however, does not house books but instead features at least one *really* large computer screen (35″?) as part of a table area for students to work together on projects–the room also has other space and built-in computers for collaborative work).

    At WCU, there’s also a relatively new “QVC” (yes, the computers were supplied by the shopping channel) Computer Center that are in a different location from those used for catalogue searching and electronic journal access. These are lined up in rows, but here users stand or sit on tall stools (the arrangement allows for more to gather around a machine). There are long tables and chairs nearby for other kinds of work.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if older print versions of the Britannica Encyclopedia were being tossed or sold–or will be before too long– at many institutions with a subscription to the online Britannica. While a quick search of WorldCat indicates that most of the area DC,VA, and MD univeristy libraries have copies of the 1998 version of the New Encyclopaedia Britannica, few of these institions (law libraries excepted) list a copy of the 2002. Interestingly, 2002 version is listed at several public libraries as well as some community colleges. Yet I didn’t find many listing the 2007 version (NOTE: I have not checked individual library holdings–WorldCat is not always accurate about what editions a library holds).


  5. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    I had a meeting yesterday with the director of our libraries at WCU, and he mentioned that the Library was not having the book sale any more. Instead, they are using either Better World Books or AmeriFolio. I had purchased 10 volumes of an 18th-century collection of novels two or three years ago on eBay for workshop material, and the seller wa BetterWorld. It seems like a very good outfit–and a good way to recyle books to users who need and appreciate them.


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