Monday, July 11, 2011

Is a Bookless Library Still a Library?

Time magazine has an article by that title written by Tim Newcomb, dateline July 11, 2011. It's main topic is Drexel's new library--built for a bookless library. Newcomb quotes Danuta Nictecki, formerly at Yale library.

But I write about it here mainly for the question the article asks in its title but doesn't begin to answer. Is a Bookless Library Still a Library?
How we answer it has important consequences for those served by libraries.

It isn't a simple question at all. The difficulty is first in the confusion between books as objects and what those objects carry. The Drexel library still has book content and journal content and etc.; it doesn't have that content in the familar codex format we call books; it still has the content of the books and journals and etc., but it has it in digital, online formats. Libraries without books are like banks without gold deposits in vaults or without paper currency or coins. A bank isn't a bank because it has money in one particular format; it's a bank because it provides services related to our use of money. We still call them banks--even though we don't have to walk into them anymore to use them.