Monday, March 5, 2012

The Library as Place: Warehouse Space

Having managed library reserves for several years now, I notice a common attitude toward the library is that it's like cold storage. Drop the stuff at the library and forget about it -- the library will keep it there for posterity. This mentality explains the sometimes-palpable sense of disappointment when we don't have something, or when we used to have something in print but now "only" have it online.

I suppose this warehouse function of the library was more prominent in the past. Perhaps libraries used to be less inviting as productive spaces to spend time in, because they existed primarily for storage of paper-based materials. Now, however, if something is taking up real estate in the building, it had better be in demand. From what I've read, this mentality is not just in community college libraries, but also at research libraries where infrequently-used materials are being moved off-site.

The funny thing is, the library probably became a popular place to study because it was a centralized repository of shared information. Now that information is no longer limited to a particular physical space, will the popularity of libraries as study spaces continue, or is the modern use of library space based in nostalgia that will fade over time?

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