February 13, 2006
A View from the Stacks: If everything is on the Internet, then why don’t we have any shelf space?
I know this because I “googled” myself the other day and I came up. Which means, that in my universe, everything is on the Internet. I am on the Internet.
So why is it that when I come to work, I am constantly shifting books to make room for more books? Since I am a library technician, I have first hand knowledge of the shelving situation at my work because I am the girl who shelves (and yes, always in heels). Countless times, I have been told by patrons (and sometimes friends) that everything they need is on the Internet, so someday shelving will be a thing of the past. I am not so sure that this is a reliable statement. In fact, I am fairly confident that space issues in our library can be so drastic at times that it can only compare to my home closet and the age-old “one too many shoes, not enough floor space” dilemma.
In The Myth of the Paperless Office, Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper study paper and its usage in people’s lives. The book addresses the notion that one day, offices will be paperless, desks will be clean and all our information will be in a digital format. Since I have not done a formal book review since college, I will spare you my thoughts, but just say that it is worth the read. Especially since it provides some interesting counter arguments to those who go so far as to say that books will someday be obsolete. (Sorry folks, could not find the book in its entirety online, thus proving my whole point).
But what about things that are already online? We have patrons that come in all the time asking for materials to be pulled up via the Internet. Chances are, though, that they will not read the information on the computer itself, but print whatever resources they find so they can read them later. Books, more to the point, paper, provide people with this option. Books can be highlighted (not borrowed materials, of course), dog-eared and flagged. People can put a book down and come back to it later. And from what I can tell riding the bus in the morning, books are still pretty popular. That or nobody is reading the books themselves, just trying to look occupied. Either way, they are useful.
Someday everything may be on the Internet. Every book may be scanned and available to read online. I am willing to bet, however, that I will still be trying to decide how to shift the digests in the library to make room for the 12 new volumes that arrived in the mail.
Stina McClintock, Library Technician, King County Law Library (Seattle)
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