In A Library . . . Without Books

Twenty-one years ago I began work in this library at a small university in Oregon. When I began my time here, where I am seated was full of bookshelves filled to the max. But now this is it:

Not a bookshelf to be seen! Not a person t0 be seen either. That’s because it is between terms. There are no classes being held at this time. No classes = no students. Actually, there are a few students here. Graduate students working on theses or dissertations. I didn’t take their photos because they look like they’ve been up for hours and have not had a decent meal in days. Anybody who says graduate school is “no big deal” doesn’t get it at all.

All of the journals have been moved to the basement. All the books remaining after the severe culling have been placed on the second floor. This didn’t happen until the engineers assured us that the second floor could bear the weight of all those items.

I believe we now have somewhere in the vicinity of 500,000 electronic books. Nearly all of our journals are available full text online. We only keep the journal issues that are not available electronically downstairs.

It’s a new day for librarians. Those of us that were born and bred with paper books and journals have either adapted to the new environment or admitted we are dinosaurs and retired, like I did. Not that I mind the changes. (Shoot! I helped design and implement these changes!) More information is now immediately available than has ever been the case before. That can’t be bad — unless you like the look, feel and smell of the old and increasingly obsolete paper book.

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