Libraries Replacing Books with Bytes

Article excerpt

In the age of Google, traditional libraries seem outdated. So college libraries around the United States are increasingly replacing books with digital databases.

According to the New York Times, the University of Texas at Austin's undergraduate library will disperse almost all its 90,000 books to other university collections to make room for a 24-hour electronic information commons.

"In this information-seeking America, I can't think of anyone who would elect to build a books-only library," Fred Heath, vice provost of the University of Texas Libraries in Austin, told the Times.

Their new library will feature "software suites"--modules with computers where students can work collaboratively 24 hours a day--an expanded center for writing instruction, and a center for computer training, technical assistance, and repair.

Such digital learning laboratories, which are staffed with Internet-savvy librarians, teachers, and technicians, have been spreading since first appearing in 1994 at the University of Southern California. As more texts become accessible online, libraries have been moving lesser-used materials to storage.

"There's a real transition going on," said Sarah Thomas, past president of the Association of Research Libraries and the librarian at the Cornell University Library in Ithaca, N. …