where are the books? and the bookkeepers for that matter?

the bookless library @ drexel university

hello, dear readers

this time last year, according to time magazine, (see what i did there? “time,” according to “time” magazine. oh, i crack me up) was the time of the bookless library. kansas state, stanford, drexel and UT-san antonio all have “naked” libraries.

the library without books. which would be called something else, i’m sure, maybe a warehouse, a pod, a large booth or i guess it depends on what else is inside it.

ask any joe or jane on the street to name a building with books in it, probably 5 out of 10 would say library. the other 5 might say bookstore upon hearing the word “book.” so if a building doesn’t have physical books in it, can it still be called a library?

what if it’s a building with chairs? could be an auditorium, could be IKEA.
a building with chairs and computers? could be an internet cafe, could be offices.
what about chairs, computers and e-book collections? could be a bookstore, heck, could be my house!

could that also be called a library? what if you add a cafe?

now, of course, i’m only talking about the physical structure. the library as ‘place’ (ugh!).

oed (oxford english dictionary, of course) definition of library: a place set apart to contain books for reading, study, or reference. (Not applied, e.g. to the shop or warehouse of a bookseller.) note that the definition says contain books (but not what kind – could be e-books, perhaps?)

merriam-webster dictionary: a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale. hmmm, interesting. not specific to books.

encyclopedia brittanica:
collection of information resources, in print or in other forms, that is organized and made accessible for reading or study. double hmmm, more interesting still. the word “OR” regarding other forms. not “AND.” curious?

the most striking part of this blog post is…
i got none of these definitions from a book

oh, alright, okay, hold on…brb.

okay, 78 steps and 3 minutes later (i work in a library close to the research assistance desk), i have gone to the webster’s 3rd new international dictionary (the physical print volume) for the definition of library: a room, a section or series of sections of a building or a building itself given over to books, manuscripts, musical scores or other literary and sometimes artistic materials, as paintings or musical recordings usually kept in some convenient order for use but not for sale. i love the term “given over” as if there was some sort of invasion of marching tomes. i do find it interesting that this was the only definition that mentioned “some convenient order” as opposed to organized.

now, i’m not complaining here, but in less time than it took me to walk over to that dictionary, i got the previous 3 definitions online. convenient? you betcha!!

now, back to the time magazine article. it mentions drexel university’s new library learning terrace, with nary a book in site. “we don’t just house books, we house learning.”

kansas state’s fiedler library – “fiedler library is designed primarily as an electronic library.”

stanford university’s terman engineering library – pruned all but 10,000 volumes to make room for tables and study space.

univ of texas-san antonio/applied engineering and technology library, – labeled “the nation’s first completely bookless library on a college or university campus.”

what is it that patrons want from a library? books or information or guidance to information?

as for bookkeepers, i really mean librarians. who are they? what are they? if there are no books, does that make a librarian any less a librarian? is he/she now an informarian? hey, i like that. although i hate the term, maybe librarians are now media specialists. or information specialists. or locators? human divining rods? sherpas? will they be any less so if a library doesn’t contain actual books?

maybe our love of libraries comes from its physical, tactical nature. we are, after all, human. humans, usually, judge things through the senses. if something’s rotten in denmark, we know it. can we still find a love for literature if we can’t wander the stacks, using our sight to guide us. our brains to process the information on that all-important inside flap? maybe we’re afraid that we won’t be able to get as much as we have if it’s not laid out in front of us in a physical manner. maybe we’re just . . . afraid.

just something to think about…while you’re wandering the stacks of your library or the aisles of your bookstore, or the electronic bookshelves of amazon or google books or combine the two at barnes & noble. because no matter what or how, a good story is still a good story.

happy reading, no matter the format!

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