Something that we have yet to discuss extensively in our courses is the necessity of digital libraries. We all seem to take it for granted that “digital” is the future of libraries – but does that mean that physical books are on the way out? Those are questions that I would assume have been asked by staff at Archbishop Wood High School, a private, Catholic institution in Philadelphia. In an article published by Philadelphia’s The Enquirer, the school made it public knowledge that it “the school’s library will be whittled from 47,000 to about 1,000 to make room for a new bank of computers, projection equipment, and collaborative space.”
If you, like me, grew up using a card catalog and making weekly trips to your local public library, the thought of redistributing all of those books might eat away at you inside. The fact of the matter is this however: no one has checked outThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from Archbishop’s library since 1997 (which, ironically, is the year the Archbishops’ oldest students were probably born). Another redeeming reality: the library is going to try to give away most of the books before reneging them to the recycling bin. So, the books are going to a good home and will (hopefully) bring some avid reader happiness. But what about the future of Archbishop’s collection?
As a student, I am guilty of preferring electronic resources. Sure, it can be a pain to authenticate my computer and set up a VPN – but maybe we (librarians) should complete redefine how we approach collection development and access in a world where it is more practical and user-friendly to host mostly digital collections.