We have been talking about e-books and what they mean to our beloved print books. Some people think e-books are the death of print books while others scoff at such notions. Let me tell you a sad tale my local librarian told me this weekend. It really made me stop and wonder if those who think e-books are the death of print are on to something.
For one of my finals I am to research scholarly articles and books; we are not to use what we find surfing the web. As I tried to maneuver through my school’s library website I recalled what we students did in the old days. We used to go to the library to use their reference books. Many of you may groan at the memories of sitting at a table taking notes from large texts. Others may smile at the memory of the friendly reference desk librarian who would spend countless hours helping you find just what you were looking for. I remember both.
Saturday I took pen and paper to the library. I went over the information center and asked for help. I had no idea where I would find information on the evolution of the Victorian education system. The librarian jumped up and whisked me over to the reference section. Oh she was so excited someone was asking for help and wanted to see the reference collection. What a collection it is! There are tomes on history, religion (oh I would kill for some of these books), cooking, gardening, mechanics, math and many more. I stopped more than once to admire the encyclopedias and books with so much information they needed volumes. Remember volumes? As I admired the books the librarian sighed. No one looks at these books anymore she told me. Students now rely on the internet and online editions of these books. She no longer orders reference books and wonders if she should get rid of these to make more room for fiction. I felt a tremendous loss and sadness for these books. How terrible that they sit collecting dust forgotten and unappreciated. I asked if she ever sold books from this collection, and was told from time to time she does. I wanted to whip out my checkbook and offer money for many of them. I would take them home and love them! If I had the money this is what I would do, but since I do not, all I can do is visit them more often.
After we looked for what I wanted to no avail we ended up standing in front of a computer screen. Here the friendly librarian showed me how to log onto their larger online reference collection and how to find what I am looking for. Sadly I will have to use the internet library for my research and wonder what this means for students worldwide. Will the large reference collections disappear? Will we be forced to always find scholarly information online? What will happen to these wonderful books? Slowly they will disappear and someday people may forget there was a time when we students sat at tables scribbling notes from books that were full of information and delight. Sigh…I feel old and wonder what e-books mean to print.
So dear Readers, the next time you are in the library go over to the reference collection and ask yourself if these books deserve to disappear. Ask yourself if books may one day be a thing of the past.