A Bookless Digital Library Hums With Knowledge

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By Revathi Siva Kumar | August 27, 2014 2:22 PM EST

A no-book library has opened a new chapter since Monday in Florida Polytechnic University's Fall semester.

The elegant, white dome housing the digital library expresses a design that lives in tomorrow but was born in the mind of Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava.

Although it is not yet accredited, the class with its scholarships has lured 550 students to avail of its impressive collection of 135,000 e-book to be browsed on readers, tablets or laptops. The instructors oversee the resources and their usage.

The 11,000 square-foot library is housed in the second floor of a 12-storey Innovation, Science and Technology (IST) Building, which cost $60 million. There are printers that tick on at the fringes too, but paper use by students is not welcomed. There is, however, a bookshop selling text-books. A conventional book lover can also borrow from 11 public schools that have an arrangement with FPU.

"It's a boldly relevant decision to go forward without books," said Kathryn Miller, the university's director of libraries to Reuters.

Within a budget of $60,000 and software rights, Florida Polytechnic purchased some book titles allowing students to check freely once. An additional click makes it mandatory for the library to buy the book.

The onus of choice thus shifts from the librarian to the student.

Although other libraries such as those in NASA and the University of Central Florida are common, the books available there are traditional. It has still dawned on everyone that it is easier to read digital books, as you tend to consume faster as well as more!

There are some minus points in the system too. Keeping pace with fast-changing software and updating annual payments for digital e-books make it difficult to run the library. After all, you need to buy a book only once in a conventional library!

Florida Polytechnic's old, book-lined library nestles outside, shared with another institution. Students, though, prefer to walk into its new age of electronic knowledge base.

However, this is not the first of its kind in the US. The Cushing Academy private school began to go that way in 2009 in Massachusetts, followed by a totally bookless university library in 2010, in the University of Texas, San Antonio.

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