Invasion of the Google Snatchers

The folks at the University of Texas at Austin have decided to do away with books for undergraduates. 90,000 volumes in the undergraduate libraries will be replaced by something called an “electronic information commons.” Instead of doing research by sifting through magazines, tracking through footnotes to determine primary sources, and otherwise performing the bare minimum of research that a properly investigated and fact-checked essay requires, books are to be done away with because students aren’t using them. What’s even more distressing is that the students are being encouraged by librarians and professors.


  1. I think you are misrepresenting what is going on there, Ed. They are not “doing away” with the books, they are relocating them to other locations on campus. With the profusion of electronic research tools (which yes can include the electronic equivalent of footnote chasing) available and the speed that documents and books can be delivered to a user this model makes sense with how current research is being done. If a student needs a book it is easy to go to another building and find it or have it send to the place you are. Libraries are headed the way of being more communally social places (like blog comments/discussions!) where students can work in groups. Plus, 90,000 books in a large university library really isn’t that many volumes.

  2. Derik: From what I understand, the only people who will be able to access the books are grad students, not the undergrads. That’s what a graduate library is for: to serve and provide material for only one caste of students. I’m not certain what the restrictions or security will be like for the University of Texas. But if it’s anything like how it was in UC Berkeley in the 90s, it should be considerably prohibitive.

  3. I wasn’t aware there were still books in Texas. (I can’t believe I’m the first to crack that joke, and so poorly worded at that)

  4. The graduate library at the university I went to wasn’t exclusively available to graduate students: it was simply where all the serious research materials and special collections were located. Anybody, even members of the public, could do research in any of the libraries on campus, including the law library and the science and engineering library.

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