Monday, April 22, 2013

Betwixt and Between

Is anyone else as betwixt and between as I am about e-Books? It is hard to know which way to jump. The figure on the left was just installed in our LC this morning (Thanks, Christopher & Kevin!) and sums up my feelings as I contemplate my summer order. How much will I spend on print, on databases, and on eBooks?

The short version is our print purchases will be for high interest fiction and narrative nonfiction. Everything else will be digital. Two recent articles have helped me clarify my plans for our future.

Joyce Valenza's post about her eBook journey was incredibly helpful, because it reinforced many of the discussions and experiences we are having in our school. Like many, we have been building our e-book collection focusing on reference and nonfiction. (Honestly, the only titles being used are the ones we are embedding into our research LibGuides.) Moving forward we will be prioritizing titles with multi-user licenses, and on-demand options.

The other article that had me thinking was The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens. This is a great read, and provides the science behind the issues between print and digital reading. The human brain is wired to process real-life images, and evolved to adapt to print. Reading occurs in the same region as image processing, and is also tied to mapping, that helps orient the brain. Reading off the print page also involves a mapping that orients the reader, and facilitates building context and retention. When recalling text, this mapping is tied to our progress in the book, which section it was in, what part of the page. There really is a connection between retention and the tactile experience of reading. I am dropping my digital evangelism, and recognize that there remains a vital role for print in deep reading experiences. 
This summer my orders will have high interest print, but for research and inquiry, we are continuing with our book-less philosophy.
Here are a few additional figures in the installation. Aren't they great!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Line in the Sand

Weeding books is never fun, but it sure is interesting. Pulling book after book after book off the shelf there are lots of check out stamps from the 1980's to 90's, and then they dwindle to nothing after 1998. It was the line in the information sand that marked a tipping point. Internet access to databases and academic web searches became more relevant than book-based resources. This isn't news to librarians, but for me the stark reality confirmed that we are doing the right thing. We are going book-less.

The check out slip in the back of a book tells a story almost as interesting as that contained between the covers. Some books remain virginal, their bindings never cracked. Others have check out slips almost black with due date stamps. And then there are runs of books that have current due date stamps. These are the topics of regular research assignments. I know the teachers and the papers, and that the print resources play a small role in the research activity.

Going book-less does not mean there will be no print and the shelves will be thrown away. It is a philosophy. Until the terrain around publishing e-book contracts and technology devices settles and industry standards emerge, there will still be print versions of high interest fiction and non-fiction. Meanwhile, the bulk of the research and reference collections will go digital.

This is the line in our sand. My goal is to get the nonfiction collection age up from 1986 to the 2000's. Six years ago it was 1936 (!), so we have already made a lot of progress.  Last year we got fiction up to 2001, and this included a lot of replacement of battered but relevant classics.

No hand wringing. Out they go.

(For those interested, we are using the MUSTY protocol for weeding. SUNY Fredonia Reed Library has a very nice MUSTY resource page.)