HOUSTON, May 13 - Students attending the University of Texas at Austin will find something missing from the undergraduate library this fall.
By mid-July, the university says, almost all of the library's 90,000 volumes will be dispersed to other university collections to clear space for a 24-hour electronic information commons, a fast-spreading phenomenon that is transforming research and study on campuses around the country.
"In this information-seeking America, I can't think of anyone who would elect to build a books-only library," said Fred Heath, vice provost of the University of Texas Libraries in Austin.
Such digital learning laboratories, staffed with Internet-expert librarians, teachers and technicians, have been advancing on traditional college libraries since appearing at the University of Southern California in 1994. As more texts become accessible online, libraries have been moving lesser-used materials to storage. But experts said it was symbolic for a top educational institution like Texas to empty a library of books.
The trend is being driven, academicians and librarians say, by the dwindling need for undergraduate libraries, many of which were built when leading research libraries were reserved for graduate students and faculty. But those distinctions have largely crumbled, with research libraries throwing open their stacks, leaving undergraduate libraries as increasingly puny adjuncts with duplicate collections and shelves of light reading.
- NY Times