I remember a time in high school when it seemed every English teacher and librarian given five minutes to soapbox would whisper about how computers are the end of libraries as we know them. Ominous visions of book burnings, craters overflowing with Wordsworth, ill-educated people speaking in IM-abbreviationsÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ the horror.
In academia, the digital front is sweeping in with a vengeance. Several of my professors refuse to assign textbooks, choosing to cite websites and online journals in their electronic syllabi. In my English survey classes this is understandable; even I would prefer to print out poems and book chapters than carry around the 30 lb. anthologies typically required. Some of my professors host websites of their own, and routinely Google discussion topics and videos on YouTube in class. In some cases, this is infinitely more effective than any textbook would be (actual examples: graffiti art in Britain, current campaign events, online photo albums).
For the typical student here on campus, googling any and everything is the first step. After this might or might not turn up viable sources, I would estimate nine out of ten students will hit online databases before looking at a card catalogue. When searching through these online articles too, students will select Ã¢â‚¬Å“PDF onlyÃ¢â‚¬Â before actually finding physical items on the shelves. In our Ã¢â‚¬Å“library tutorialÃ¢â‚¬Â classes taught by actual librarians, the only resources discussed are online. When articles are not in databases, I would hasten to say students either use questionable sources or struggle with finding books on the shelves. Even if the library doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have something, it is SO easy to request sources from other libraries electronically (I cannot imagine life without interlibrary loan!!!). Students just arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t comfortable with books anymore.
So, is technology the end of libraries?
I refuse to believe it. Bookstores and libraries are among the most popular places to congregate for meetings and project-building. Every college student on this campus knows the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Naked LadyÃ¢â‚¬Â (a statue in our library where any/every class and organization converges) and has met there numerous times. Despite popular belief, books are still checked-out at our campus library, as are the magazines, periodicals, newspapers, government publications, educational materials, musical scores, etc. also offered. Most of the above media are available online, but there is just something wonderful about having an actual book in hand. It feels more reliable. Personally, I cannot image life without my books. Yes, physical booksÃ¢â‚¬â€not printouts. Who wants a home library full of loose leaf papers?! I absolutely hate reading articles, stories and poetry online. It gives me a serious headache. Given the choice, I would prefer curling up with a leather-bound, moldy book than my HP widescreen anyday. Books might be underappreciated these days, but theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not going anywhere. We book readers are a scrappy bunch. We wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go down without a fight.