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library != books? library == books? Cue the violins. - Terrafactive Armageddon

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August 25th, 2005


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03:07 am - library != books? library == books? Cue the violins.
Here's the University of Texas at Austin, and here's the Flawn Academic Center, formerly the undergraduate library. Well, still the undergraduate library, but since there aren't any more books present, we're going to tastefully elide the word from the name to ease the pain:
At UT, the biggest challenge has been changing antiquated notions of a library's role in learning. "While most people have been hugely supportive of this idea, some have been sort of grieving over this iconic loss of the undergraduate library. I think what they are really grieving is the passing of the book as the means of scholarly communication," says Fred Heath, vice provost for the general libraries, adding that UT is the nation's fifth-largest academic library with more than 8 million volumes.
It's not as though they took the volumes all out into the main concourse and had a giant bonfire, after all - they've been moved into other collections.

I've seen this coming since when I was in school and "portable computer" meant you could pick the damn thing up without a forklift, if you were lucky. The busiest study areas were always the lounges and the coffee shops, places where you could eat and work at the same time - and the library was constantly fighting a losing battle with people ignoring the ban on food and drink. In addition, UT has one of the top Information Science (nee Library) programs extant, so I'm not surprised to see the school as a whole putting some of that theory in to action.

The most interesting aspect of the article to me, though, was the assertion that the institution of Undergraduate Library itself was fairly young. The 1950s, it claims, was when universities began to open the stacks to undergraduates, and build collections more focused on those areas of study. News to me, but it does explain some of the oddities of the UW library system and Interlibrary Loan, and some of the quirkiness in the language.

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[User Picture]
From:rimrunner
Date:August 25th, 2005 03:54 pm (UTC)
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There's a discussion of this in libraries, and I made my comments on the issue there.

Personally I find the concept of an undergraduate-specific library to be flawed. It's not going to encourage reluctant library users, and students who are already serious about their research will quickly find the collection inadequate for their needs and go to the graduate library anyway.
[User Picture]
From:cithra
Date:August 25th, 2005 11:43 pm (UTC)
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I know I sure as hell found it odd when I first tried dealing with the UW library system - WWU only had one library for both populations. When I discovered the way things were at UW, I figured it was a space issue or similar quirk[*], rather than the academic version of the kiddie room down at the municipal institution.

I should have known, I suppose - though it's really only fairly recently I've had it confirmed that in academia one should never ascribe mere utility or coincidence as an explanation when malice aforethought will suffice.

[*] Because why should it be easy to find what you are looking for when they can divide the collection up into forty-seven different sub-collections and make it a game? Let's see, is what I'm looking for in the Medical library, the Undergraduate Library, the Graduate Library, the Biology Library, or only available through ILL? This was, granted, pre-online catalog. I can only hope it's easier these days to track down where the physical volume you are seeking actually resides.

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