Print or digital: the ramifications of the digital age reach the Dwight Marvin

The Dwight Marvin has slowly been making the switch from physical book to digital e-books. www.hvcc.edu | Hudsonian

The Dwight Marvin has slowly been making the switch from physical book to digital e-books.

Jacob Pitts
Staff Writer

Old inventions are deemed unnecessary as technology advances, and if recent developments in the library department are anything to go by, physical books are in danger.

Some argue that they are too heavy, require light to read, and are simply a waste of space, while choosing e-books for a sleek and portable reading experience.

Others criticize e-books for their clinical nature and reliance on battery life, and prefer the more personal, organic feeling that reading a paper book offers. Most people have a preference one way or the other, but at the Dwight Marvin Library, the digital side is evidently winning over.

At HVCC, this shift has occurred gradually, with the Dwight Marvin Library putting small changes into practice each year. There are currently 80,000 print books in the library’s collection, which is only half of the 160,000 e-books that are now available online.

A decade ago, these statistics were the other way around, and 2010 was the turning point when the library’s print and digital collections were of equal size. Since then, the print collection has continued to shrink and the number of e-books in the library system has been increasing yearly.

A positive outcome of reducing the amount of physical books in the library is that it allows for extra seating, and more room for students to hang out and collaborate on projects.

Library director Brenda Hazard said, “What we’ve been able to do in my ten years as library director is do what we call repurposing our space, so that we don’t need the same amount of floor space for books. In some ways it’s very freeing.”

Brenda continued, “I’m not a librarian who thinks of libraries as book museums. We don’t need to devote the amount of space that we had to books anymore.”

Reinventing the library as a social hub on campus will attract students who might normally be deterred by the idea of the stereotypical librarian shushing patrons to check out the library and its wealth of valuable resources. There are still silent study spaces for students who like to do their work quietly, but the library now hosts spaces to do work at any noise level.

This repurposing of library space has also given students room to do things that would be prohibited in most traditional libraries, like using their mobile devices and having snacks.

Hazard goes on to point out, “We can rethink what students need: they want tables where they can spread out, where they can plug in devices, where they can charge their phones, they can have their coffee and their sandwich, and they want to do all those things at once. When we don’t have to worry about the physical condition of print books, we can be more liberal about things like eating and drinking.”

Even though the library has undergone some major changes in the makeup of its collection and space, Hazard does not expect it to change the job of librarians that much. The primary goal of librarians is still to help students navigate information, no matter what medium it is in.

On the other hand, while digital sources are more convenient for students in many ways, they also bring up some complications. The greatest obstacle that students will face as a result of the Digital Revolution is how they evaluate the sources they find.

“Fake news” is one of the most notorious buzzwords of the year, and the ever-increasing dependence on digital sources makes it more critical than ever for students to know if their sources are reliable, respected, and objective.

While physical books are now an endangered species, it is safe to say that the libraries themselves are here to stay. As long as they continue to evolve with the times and adapt to students’ needs, they will remain a staple to college students’ social lives and academic success.

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