stanford-library Stanford’s new Engineering Library is getting rid of 7/8 of its paper books in favor of e-book replacements, NPR reports. The change is due to a combination of engineering periodicals moving from print to digital editions and the library running out of room to store its collection.

To decide which 10,000 books made the cut, Stanford librarians checked check-out records to see which books were most frequently checked out. It turned out that the vast majority of the library’s books had not been checked out in five years.

The e-book replacements will also have a side benefit, given the rapidly-changing nature of the engineering field. By the time traditional textbooks come into print, they are often at least partly obsolete. This change will enable Stanford to keep its textbooks and examples more current, the dean of Stanford’s School of Engineering explains.

And other libraries may soon follow suit, both at Stanford and elsewhere. Stanford library director Michael Keller sees a trend at work in the way current students are interacting with libraries and technology.

"They write their papers online, and they read articles online, and many, many, many of them read chapters and books online," he says. "I can see in this population of students behaviors that clearly indicate where this is all going."

NPR reports that, while few libraries are getting rid of so many printed books, many American libraries are starting to shift funding away from paper books and toward electronic resources.

(Found via Gizmodo.)


  1. I think for research, on-line journals are a huge boon and I don’t see any benefit to paper versions. On-line journals can be searched easily, relevant articles cross-indexed and it’s just a huge time-saver. Plus I don’t have to worry about someone else in a course beating me to an article I need—a site license could make the article available to both of us. When I was in university, it was about half and half in terms of what was still viewable only in paper and what was migrating on-line, journal-wise, but I do remember that all of my professors preferred journals to books because they were more up-to-date and to the point.

    I can see maintaining shelf space for special collections (my alma mater has a map collection that is apparently quite extensive and valuable) and perhaps for certain fiction collections (a local library branch has one of the most extensive Sherlock Holmes themed collection in the world). But I have no problems with the journals going all electronic and the library devoting space to meeting and working areas. My old campus library had several comfy couch areas that filled up quickly! More would have been nice.

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