The widespread use of digital materials is changing the structure of libraries dramatically, pushing them to consolidate and weed out their print materials when online copies become available. Olin has adapted by creating a digital library team to push the process along. Its staff has also started to use Google Books to give students access to books they cannot find otherwise....
"When we talk about where the libraries will be as we finish our Plan for Excellence, it will probably be fewer physical libraries," Baker said. "The digital collections will grow dramatically; we may even remove some print from the main campus."
The idea that a library is a place to hold books has been rapidly eroding over the past few years. Perhaps the most dramatic instance of the newfangled library is the Rem Koolhaas-designed central branch of the Seattle Public Library, which opened in 2004.
Our ambition is to redefine the library as an institution no longer exclusively dedicated to the book, but as an information store where all potent forms of media--new and old--are presented equally and legibly. In an age where information can be accessed anywhere, it is the simultaneity of all media and (more importantly) the curatorship of their contents that will make the library vital.
Baker assured Student Life that the library will continue to maintain book collections for disciplines like art and architecture that rely more heavily on printed rather than electronic material.
But it will be interesting to see how far the electronic revolution will go. Will it remain more cost-effective to switch from the bound to the electronic version if everybody prints out the articles instead, or will our eyes somehow adapt to reading everything on a screen?