Ms. Wong goes on to point out that “Back in the 1940s, college libraries had something of an existential crisis. Charles Gosnell, a prominent library-sciences scholar and college librarian in New York, suggested that shifting academic priorities and space constraints threatened to deplete certain book collections, particularly those in highly technical fields such as chemistry, economics, and education. By phasing out the seemingly antiquated books, perhaps libraries would also be divesting themselves of the titles’ particular perspectives or scientific frameworks, many of which could be invaluable. New books had begun to far outnumber older titles in libraries’ collections, a trend that Gosnell described in his article as “book mortality.”
Libraries pulled through, of course, but then the rise of the internet renewed fears of obsolescence. So far, the internet has not killed libraries either. But the percentage of higher-education budgets dedicated to libraries has been dwindling since the 1980s, and at many institutions there’s been a corresponding drop in reported spending on print materials while that on electronic resources has grown.
Likely in the hopes of proving that they have more to offer than a simple internet connection does, many college libraries are pouring resources into interior-design updates and building renovations, or into “glitzy technology,” such as 3-D printers and green screens, that is often housed in “media centers” or “makerspaces.”
The Claremont Colleges’ shared library now has a “digital tool shed”—“a technology-rich active-learning center,” according to a 2016 press release previewing the resource, where people are able to “try out innovative pedagogy” such as a data-visualization wall and cutting-edge video- and audio-recording software. Minnesota’s Macalester College library has an “Idea Lab,” which it describes as “a co-working space resembling that of many big tech companies,” where students can needle-felt miniature animals and wear virtual-reality helmets. The goal is, ultimately, to stay relevant and increase appeal. (See: the “Mad Librarian Escape Room” at Goodwin College’s library, which tasks teams of students with salvaging a rare book—a “precious volume!”—via clues they gather in a scavenger hunt.)
Yet much of the glitz may be just that—glitz…”
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Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.