It is only half the size of the current Engineering Library, but saves its space for people, not things. It features soft seating, “brainstorm islands,” a digital bulletin board and group event space. There are few shelves and it will feature a self-checkout system.
It is developing a completely electronic reference desk, and there will be four Kindle 2 e-readers on site. Its online journal search tool, called xSearch, can scan 28 online databases, a grant directory and more than 12,000 scientific journals.
As Lisa M. Krieger reports in the San Jose Mercury News, “Box by box, decades of past scholarship are being packed up and emptied from two old libraries, Physics and Engineering, to make way for the future: a smaller but more efficient and largely electronic library that can accommodate the vast, expanding and interrelated literature of Physics, Computer Science and Engineering.”
And the reasons behind it all are not as altruistic — or techno-slavish — as you might think: Krieger reports that it’s at least partly driven by “fierce competition for space on campus.” For one thing, “Stanford is running out of room, restricted by an agreement with Santa Clara County that limits how much it can grow. Increasingly, the university seeks to preserve precious square footage.” For another, “Adding to its pressures is the steady flow of books. Stanford buys 100,000 volumes a year — or 273 every day.”
The person having the hardest time with it may be the school’s Physics librarian, Stella Ota — the one who makes the decision on what books stay and what book go.
“It is challenging — I’ll look at a book and say, ‘This is important work, but not currently used,’ ” she tells the paper. “When I look back, then there is a certain sadness for me. Any change is hard. And there are moments of joy, when I see bookplates of former faculty who owned and donated the book, and sometimes made notes on the side. But looking forward, I see an opportunity to create something new.”