What is the Future of Libraries and Books?


Kate Spires, Librarian at UC.

John Blashke, Staff Writer

Living in the digital age has made access to information simpler than any other time in history. With a seemingly infinite amount of information readily available at our fingertips, it calls into question the need for public services such as libraries and the books they provide. This cultural shift could have unintended consequences, with the potential to shape everyday lives even more than they already have.

According to the Library Collections page on the Utica College website, the Utica College Frank E. Gannett Memorial Library has access to 172,000 books, as well as 190,000 e-books. With the rise and prominence of e-books and devices, such as the Amazon Kindle, are students still checking out books from libraries? What transitions are taking place?

Katie Spires, a librarian at UC, said she believes the library has been making big strides towards greater accessibility to library resources for all students.

“We have been making an effort to step up our online offerings mostly out of concern for both space and access for our distance students,” Spires said. “If we purchase an online book than anyone can look at it.”

A little known fact about the Utica College Library is that the number of physical copies of books available to students greatly exceed what is just on the shelves. Through the Interlibrary Loans program, known as Illiad on the library website, the Central New York Library Resource Council students are able to request books and academic journals from a number of schools in the surrounding area.

While there is a demand for e-books and the benefits that they have, physical paper copies of books will not be going out of style anytime soon.

“E-Books have been a recent trend in a lot of libraries to beef up their e-resources,” Spires said. “Though that being said, it is swinging around now that a lot of patrons are looking for print books as a way to take a break from the screens. Who knows how it will wind up being years down the road from now?”

Online databases make looking for specific information very simple, but for broader topic areas and general studying for a subject, many students still prefer a traditional textbook. One of these students is sophomore Marwa Ben Zouina.

“I use Black’s Law Dictionary, and while there is a version online I actually prefer the physical copy of it,” Zouina said. “Even though I think we are going to be using more databases in the future there are some books that are crucial as printed books.”

Zouina explained how she was grateful for the library’s resources that help students gain access to information in a cost-effective manner. 

“I usually check out the books on reserve to use for my core classes—that way I do not have to spend money on a new book from the store,” Zouina said.

First-year student Vannroth Meas delved into a little more detail as to why students may prefer physical copies of books as opposed to digital sources.

“Online databases are easy to use but I do not like it because I find myself getting distracted quite easily,” Meas said. “If I have the book I do better at keeping track of my reading.”

Libraries do more than just provide books for people to read at their own will.  More than anything, people go to the library to study. The comfortable atmosphere and controlled noise levels adequately provide an environment that promotes learning.

Christopher Wagner is a first-year student at UC who has quickly come to appreciate the subtleties that the library has to offer.

“I am here a lot; I find it very peaceful,” Wagner said. “It helps me to focus and get my work done just like everyone else that is here.”