News

Amid Library-Wide Digitization, Books Keep Foothold

Mike O'Sullivan

As libraries around the world transition from hardbound books to digital files, at California State University, Northridge, a massive infrastructure keeps things running.

Behind the scenes, 13,000 book bins are stacked 12 meters high in an automated system that can retrieve a book in seconds.

With more than one million books and a quarter-million periodical volumes housed at this suburban Los Angeles campus, catalogs are already digitized and students download readings for class. But the library is also home to thousands of rare books and documents.

"I would say that probably 90 percent of the journals that we subscribe to now come in electronic format," says Mark Stover, dean of the library, explaining that print treasures - such as an 18th-century travelogue - are here to stay. "With books and monographs on the other hand, it's a little bit different story."

Although their facility is changing, Northridge librarians say, their printed books should be around for a long time. In fact, most of the library's book holdings and new acquisitions are in paper form.

Some students like it that way.

“I like the computer as well, but I prefer book and paper,” says biology major Lisa Ochoa.

The library's collection includes printed archive material, such as handwritten letters and old newspaper stories, but a major effort is under way to digitize the holdings to preserve them and widen their availability.

According to digital librarian Steve Kutay, encoding electronic files with descriptive “metadata” ensures they will remain accessible.

“They can be backed up and they can be stored off-site," he says. "They can be very well protected, but are not necessarily meaningful to us if we don't know - 10, 20 years from now - what is contained in those files.”

Helen Heinrich, chief of technical services, oversees cataloging of new books and periodicals, and removing books that have already been converted to digital format. Many universities, she says, are cooperating to ensure hard copies remain in storage in case of an emergency.

"We are all becoming so dependent on the Internet," she says. "But what if there is a cyber-attack and it all goes down one day? there will be a copy of record.”

Dean Stover says that although going digital gives libraries extra room and the opportunity to redesign their physical layout, it's not a complete conversion. For books, the process is gradual, and he says many digital files remain unavailable because the authors or their heirs retain copyrights and won't release them for electronic distribution.

“We are going to weed our collections. We are going to reshape them and use the space to repurpose into more learning places for our students," says Stover. "But I think that print books, especially because of copyright issues, are going to maintain their place for many years to come."

Fortunately, he adds, most students are comfortable with either format.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs