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Paperless libraries, desk-less librarians

May 7, 2012

I recently took a much needed week and a half vacation to study for finals.  During my absence from the conscious world, there were some interesting developments in our profession.

As reported here, LexisNexis has partnered with Overdrive to create a LexisNexis Digital Library of downloadable and lendable legal titles.  I’m familiar with Overdrive as a provider of ebooks from my local public library, and I believe law students will welcome this service, especially if it means they could download a casebook instead of forking over $300 for the same title.  The functionality of Overdrive is, in my honest opinion, light years ahead of NetLibrary, the current main academic ebook provider.

AALL’s Day in the Life Photo Contest winners were announced and the best overall photograph features a librarian contemplating what to do with a row of empty stacks.  With tighter budgets all over, libraries are cutting traditional print sources in favor of their electronic counterparts.  Books are literally flying out of the windows of libraries.  Instead of the old problem of not enough space, librarians are having to ask themselves what to do with an abundance of new free space.

Westlaw announced that they will end free printing in law schools by June 2013.  Our Westlaw rep informed me of this news during a lunch on Friday and said the library could take over and fund the printers if we wanted to do so.  With a mouth full of salsa and chips all I could do was snort at the suggestion.  Perhaps it is only a matter of time before Lexis announces the end of their free printing.

My fellow blog contributors posted about roving reference or “embedded librarians“.  While I remember the concept of roving reference being taught in library school some 7 years ago, I have yet to work at a library that incorporated the idea.  With the age of legal ebooks and a truly digital library nearly upon us, getting out from behind the reference desk and even out of the physical library only makes sense.  I would like to see this roving reference implemented at our school, and I call first dibs on the outside student plaza during the months of October-March.

The purpose of this post was not give a summary on recent news.  These items all have a common theme that jumped out at me – paper is out, bytes are in.  While it is not news to anyone that we are moving from a paper based library to a completely different one rooted primarily in digital media, it appears that the pace at which we are doing so is only quickening.  While the library as an institution is not necessarily becoming obsolete,  it is changing faster than we probably realize.

What do you think of these developments?

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