Bookless Libraries and the Democratization of Information

A few recent articles have made the democratization of information—and the ‘arrival of the future,’ as some call these advances—hit much closer to home. First on display is the advent of the bookless library. That sounds like an oxymoron because of what we have known libraries to be for so long (shelves of books).

The Verge recently published an article reviewing Florida Polytechnic University’s new bookless library1. Granted, the school’s curriculum focuses heavily on STEM material and the library has a book-borrowing program set up with other libraries. That isn’t the most interesting thing to me about the bookless phenomenon, though, it’s the way the concept is shaping the inventory and distribution of content:

Instead of books, the library has a deal with publishers that lets students access a title once for free. If any other student “takes out” the ebook of that title, the library automatically purchases it for its collection.

Instead of purchasing inventory, libraries can buy ebooks on-demand as needed. The efficiency brought about by that model alone will drive more libraries to adopt similar models. What’s more, as mobile devices become more and more integrated into education, we’ll see seamless ‘checkout systems’ in which students can access a school’s bookless library without even stepping foot in the physical space.

This will certainly be a fascinating transition to watch.

1. You can read about Florida Polytechnic’s bookless library on The Verge.

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