The difference between the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Applied Engineering and Technology Library and other science-focused libraries is not that its on-site collection is also available electronically.In other words, UTSA has built a library, a.k.a. a large expensive room with comfy chairs, so that students can do exactly what they can now do from their dorm rooms and the local Starbucks. Frankly, I don't know how it calls itself a library. From what I can gather, it lacks even the basics, such as an espresso stand or a set of treadmills.
It is that its on-site collection is only available electronically. . . .
San Antonio says it now has the first actual bookless library. Students who stretch out in the library’s ample study spaces — which dominate the floor plan of the new building — and log on to its resource network using their laptops or the library’s 10 public computers will be able to access 425,000 e-books and 18,000 electronic journal articles. Librarians will have offices there and will be available for consultations.
More seriously, I can see how a College of Engineering may not need books; I don't know enough about the scholarship of engineering to say. What does confuse me is why UTSA felt that it needed to dedicate a space called a "library" when what they're envisioning is a place for students to hang out and talk to each other. Does UTSA not have a student union? Is there not a room in there which could be designated a "library" or quiet studying space? My assumption is that UTSA must be rich enough not to worry about it, so I won't worry about it, either.
My question is more about the bookless books in the bookless library--the 425,000 e-books that will be available to students. I have three basic questions:
1. Does UTSA have licenses enough for them all (something that's brought up in the comments at IHE)? Let's assume that two professors assign an outside reading from one of these books in their 100-section lecture classes. Does UTSA have 200 licenses for this book, or are some students going to be shut out?
Disclosure: I've had this happen in much smaller classes once when I assigned a reading from a licensed e-book. The first person was able to check out the book for 24 hours under the university's license and everyone else was out of luck--and very vocally unhappy when the class next met. I never used an online book in that way again for exactly that reason.
2. The second one may be more idiosyncratic: it has to do with the handling of books. Historiann's recent post details some of the issues, such as not being able to mark up the books as easily and not being able to flip back and forth as you can with a paper book. I'd agree, and to these I'd add another: doesn't the sheer amount of screen-time that you get from reading things online, even on a dedicated device, contribute to some eyestrain and fatigue? There's something about switching media (screen to paper and back again) that rests the eyes in ways that a prolonged exposure to one or the other can't accomplish.
3. Will UTSA check in with its students to see how they're faring in this brave new world? I'd be interested to see if they're taking some kind of benchmark measurements about what students know/how much they read and will check again a few years down the road.