I’m recently relocated back to my hometown of Brisbane, so I hope I’ll be forgiven for continuing to post the odd morsel from across the pond.
There has been recent media kerfuffling over here about the dumbing down of universities- this isn’t anything new. More specifically though, the de-bookifying and starbuckisation of the university library has been given some airplay. Of course, anyone who works in a university library knows that what looks like throwing out perfectly good books and installing funky armchairs is actually the intersection of digitisation, space restrictions and a shift in student information seeking behaviour. I’m not saying throw out all the books (like most librarians, I’m something of a bibliophile) I’m just saying, the times they are a changing, and this is no Fahrenheit 451. See the Sydney Morning Herald article “Books get the shove as university students prefer to do research online” and the letter “Truth stranger than fiction as uni pulps books”.
I love some of the gentle psychological warfare going on in these articles- claims that libraries are throwing out all the books on morality for example seems a little to obviously aimed to inspire outrage. I also find the comment that “most libraries see their function as an archive” curious- funny, but I thought it was archives that felt that way.
My new workplace, Queensland University of Technology, has just undergone massive revamping thanks to the generous purse of the dearly departed Rudd government. On paper, QUT has become another Starbucks library. It hurts anyone who loves books to see them end up in a skip, but then most of us know this has nothing to do with love. It has to do with space, time (particularly, the last circulation date) and money. If we could more often save old books from landfill and get them into the hands of people who need and want them, would there still be anything to complain about?