Florida Polytechnic University has just opened to students, and has unveiled an 11,000 square-foot library that cost £36 million to build – but doesn’t contain a single book. Well, that’s not quite true: it has books, they’re just not visible; they’re in the cloud.
Students can read paper textbooks if they want to, thanks to inter-library loans, but they’re encouraged to fire up their Kindle, Nook, or iPad instead, as the university apparently wants them to be adept at accessing and working with information digitally. This makes sense, given that it’s a tech-focused institution: most of the courses are in science, technology, maths, or engineering.
This seems a little sad (especially for those of us who studied English, am I right?). There’s something special about checking out a book that’s helped hundreds of students before you pass the same module. And you can find unexpected gems by browsing the shelves. Plus, there’s a more hushed, studious atmosphere in a book-filled library than in an empty hangar, however nicely designed it may be. And then there’s that research that shows we absorb less info from Kindles than from paper…
But there are obvious advantages to an ebook only system. No more shoulder pain from dragging around half your semester’s reading list in your backpack, and no more stressing out because you need to read a particular paragraph for your seminar tomorrow but someone else on your course has renewed the book you need again. It could also make life easier for a lot of disabled students – especially people who find physical books hard to carry, or the print too tiny. And Florida Polytechnic University students just got instant access to 135,000 textbooks at the tap of a finger. That’s hard to beat.
Image credit: Florida Polytechnic University.