If you follow the links from More or Less Bunk's question "How do you skim an e-book" (my answer: you can't, and I own a bunch of them), you'll find a whole lot of articles on libraries getting rid of books. This is not a new event, of course, but it was a little chilling to read (at The Chronicle) that "It is no longer appropriate to treat most print resources as protected objects, or the college library as a museum for books," in part because the sight of too many books just frightens our little chicken-hearted students to death by being too "daunting." Books are not just dead but scary. They're zombies.
Huh? Are we talking about the same students who thrive on vampire, zombie, and torture porn movies and bloody video games? They're daunted by a stack of books? Seriously? And if they're "daunted," isn't it our job to show them how to get over it?
In my classroom, we're doing more library work than ever before, and the students seem to be really engaged by it. Maybe I'm fortunate that Northern Clime's librarians enjoy showing the library to students. By "showing" I don't mean forcing students to sit passively in a room watching as a librarian conducts Boolean searches and drones on for an hour that seems like a year. No, I mean getting them into the stacks to look at and leaf through the books. Some librarians like to say that e-books are the future, but really, bound books are the great undead, springing back to life in the hands of readers.
Let's take some zombie-age books as an example. Librarians like the one at the Chronicle say that books after 1850 aren't rare (although some seem to be doing their level best to make them so), and some say that Google Books makes getting these books less of a problem.
Well, let's see. This week I needed to read a reasonably obscure novel from 1870. Yep, Google books had it, or part of it: only every other page had been scanned. Descending into the entombed depths of the library, I found a copy of the original novel, from 1870, along with a number of other first editions on the shelves by this author. If this library were following the "books scare students" model of dubious library best practices, these would've been gone a long time ago. Instead, they were right there, waiting for someone to bring them back to life.