Welcome to the future of higher education:
There are no dusty bookshelves or piles of textbooks in the library of Florida’s newest university. Welcoming its first students this week, Florida Polytechnic University’s new library houses not a single physical book.
Instead, its inaugural class of 500 will have access to around 135,000 ebooks. “Our on-campus library is entirely digital,” said director of libraries Kathryn Miller. “We have access to print books through the state university system’s interlibrary loan program. However, we strongly encourage our students to read and work with information digitally.”
The 11,000 square-foot library is situated within a huge, white-domed building, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Eschewing physical books, it is a bright, open space featuring computer terminals, desks, and comfortable spots to read.
So, this new university built an 11,000 sq. ft. library that houses 0 physical books. I haven’t found an estimate of the expense of this brilliant project, but I suspect it wasn’t cheap. Presumably, a smaller building could have been built to house this non-library … at substantial savings to the students. But, after all, there’s nothing quite so impressive as walking prospective students through a big empty building and explaining to them that there are plenty of places to sit quietly with their eReaders.
I’m not a technophobe; I rent novels from the library all the time and I actually enjoy reading them on my iPad. But I want my students to read physical books, to carry them around, to take notes in the margins and underline passages. And when I’m doing research, I want the books in my hands and spread out on the desk in front of me, covered in little sticky notes. I want to flip quickly between the notes I took on page 30 that point me to the notes I took on page 130. I can’t imagine what it would be like to work with Plato on a Kindle.
Maybe this just makes me an old grouch. I’m sure you’ll let me know.