Too soon to envy digital library
Follow the call number through Mount Royal University’s stacks and you’ll eventually find Profiles of the Future: A daring look at tomorrow’s fantastic world by Arthur C. Clarke from 1962.
The yellow-tinged paperback has only been checked out once in the last 15 years and it shows.
Sitting on a dusty shelf and reeking with irony, it’s not tough to read the future of books like these. Tomorrow’s libraries don’t include printed pages, and that’s a scary thought.
The University of Calgary recently unveiled the $205-million Taylor Family Digital Library. The facility is well-equipped, with over 200 computer workstations, plus a video-wall to go along with separate editing suites.
It’s a technological wet dream.
Let’s ignore the issues already being reported on the magical land of touchpads and flatscreens — such as study space and noisy areas. Students should be more concerned about their ability to learn in today’s digital jungle.
Eyetracking studies conducted by expert Jakob Nielsen confirm people don’t actually read online — they scan over information and selectively pick out little bits and pieces.
According to Nielsen’s research, 79 per cent of those tested only scanned websites for information, which is significantly more than the 16 per cent reading word-for-word.
More of Nielsen’s research indicates readers are 25 per cent slower when reading from a computer screen than a printed version. It’s an important consideration given recent changes in copyright licensing could trigger a movement toward increasingly accessing course materials digitally.
It’s also significant because building a state-of-the-art library certainly seems high on the university’s checklist, especially with new president David Docherty calling it one of his top priorities earlier this year.
But, with all the warning signs looming over the other university’s digital palace, let’s watch how the U of C’s experiment goes before we start clearing out our dusty stacks.
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