The Idea Behind Stanford's New Library: Remove All the Books

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Stanford University's new Engineering Library is scheduled to open this August, and when it does it will have 85% fewer books than the one it's replacing. It's a big step toward what the school's librarians envision as a bookless future.

It's not hard to see the trend: students are checking out fewer books than ever before. When the Stanford staff looked into the Engineering Library's records, they found that a great number of books hadn't been checked out in five years.

So instead of carrying the physical volumes, the library will offer access to searchable, digitized versions of books and periodicals—especially useful for engineers who often only need to consult the book for a formula or two in the first place. The new library will still hold 10,000 real deal paper books, but that's compared to the 60,000 that sat on the shelves in the old library.


Clearing out some of the books, the school says, makes room and resources for other endeavors. One librarian explained, "That's what we're so [excited about]...the idea of actually offering more services, offering more workshops, offering more one-on-one time with students." A bookless library I can understand, but a noisy library—that's where I draw the line. [NPR]