NPR: Stanford Ushers In The Age Of Bookless Libraries

Stanford University Libraries—Stacks

National Public Radio's Morning Edition program had a feature today on our new bookless Engineering Library. You can read it (or listen to it) here.

From the story:

In 2005, when the university realized it was running out space for its growing collection of 80,000 engineering books, administrators decided to build a new library. But instead of creating more space for books, they chose to create less.

The new library is set to open in August with 10,000 engineering books on the shelves — a decrease of more than 85 percent from the old library. Stanford library director Michael Keller says the librarians determined which books to keep on the shelf by looking at how frequently a book was checked out. They found that the vast majority of the collection hadn't been taken off the shelf in five years.

Keller expects that, eventually, there won't be any books on the shelves at all.

"As the world turns more and more, the items that appeared in physical form in previous decades and centuries are appearing in digital form," he says.

And i still remember those

And i still remember those days when there used to be only few books in big library's students would fight over things, kind of become matter of ridicule when I remember that time.
Chris Harris

Where are the books going?

I was reading the NPR article about the new engineering library and I was wondering, what exactly will Stanford do with the 70,000 books that aren't going into the new location? I assumed that they would just be moved to one of the SAL locations, but the language in the article makes it sound like they are simply being thrown out. If that isn't the case, you might want to ask the journalist to add a correction because numerous people are interpreting the article to mean that Stanford has decided to pull a Fahrenheit 451 on tens of thousands of books.

Where have all the Engineering books gone?

Controlling access to books fulfills an Orwellian prophecy outlined in 1984 regarding the thought police. When education centers limit access to freedom of thought, it opens to doors to more insidious forms of thought control. The SAL is a remote location offsite and out of reach for most undergraduates who know little to nothing about how to use a library. Therefore the SAL becomes a warehouse of useless goods, much akin to basements that store unwanted goods.

Books and Journals from Engineering Library

The NPR report was not clear on what we are doing with the print material--just to clarify, the Stanford Libraries have an off-site high density library material storage facility (SAL3). Over the past three years the Engineering Library has sent 98,000 items to storage. These items can be paged back to campus for check-out.
Thanks for your interest. Check our website for more information:

Helen Josephine
Head of the Engineering Library

Yes NPR story did seem to say that Stanford was going without

It came as something of a surprise to me, when NPR seemed to say that Stanford was going without books, since books can give a university importance with regard to recalling the past. Even the books that were not used or checked out are valuable sometimes for some researchers looking at some question. Only a book on a shelf from 100 years ago can sometimes tell whether or not a question was previously tackled. Germs on books were frequently discussed about 100 years ago, now it is less discussed. (See related Yale dissertation) Without books some engineers and students will lose the history of engineering which I think is an important course by itself, which some schools do not teach.

James T. Struck BA, BS, AA,MLIS formerly of several Chicago area libraries