A major US college is moving almost all of its library books off campus, and it represents a major change in how young people learn

Georgia Tech/FacebookGeorgia Tech is making major changes to its library.
  • Georgia Tech recently finished the first phase of a major renovation to its campus library that resulted in more than 95% of its physical books being moved to an off-campus location.
  • The move is making way for more spaces for seating, rooms for student collaboration, and multimedia studios.
  • It signals a shift in the way young people learn, Georgia Tech’s dean of libraries said.

Technology is constantly shaping the way young people learn, and educators are always on the lookout for ways to use technology to better serve their students.

One college is taking that to its logical extreme by removing almost all the physical library books on campus.

Earlier this month, Georgia Tech put the finishing touches on the first phase of its Library Next project, an ambitious four-year plan to renovate the Georgia Tech Library with more seating space, rooms for student collaboration, multimedia studios, and computer labs.

To make room for the additions, the university has cleared out most of the library’s book stacks and moved more than 95% of the physical books it housed – around one million items – to an off-campus storage site shared with Emory University.

The project is “a fundamental rethinking of what a research library in this century in an academic institution is supposed to do,” Catherine Murray-Rust, Georgia Tech’s dean of libraries, told Business Insider.

Under the new renovations, students will be able to borrow library books the same as always. Only now, when they find a book in the digital catalogue and scan their library cards, the book must be delivered from the storage site five miles away from campus.

The move signals a major change in how young people learn, Murray-Rust said.

“It represents that the world of scholarship is digital. It is not analogue,” she said. “And that to be part of a scholarly community for a few years, or for the rest of your life – this is where the world is going, and you need to be a part of it.”


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But the relocation of physical books isn’t sitting well with everyone on campus. Rebekah Fitzsimmons, a postdoctoral fellow in Georgia Tech’s School of Literature, Media, and Communication, said the move has affected the way she approaches teaching.

“I used to encourage students working on research projects to find a book that fits their needs in the catalogue, and when they go to pick it up, to browse the stacks on either side of that specific title for other similar books,” Fitzsimmons told Business Insider.

“Obviously, that is no longer a technique that is available to students in this newly conceived library space.”

Although Fitzsimmons acknowledged the benefits of having more workspace in the library, she fears the transition is coming at a time when young people are less familiar than ever with a library’s basic functions. She said she’s found herself explaining to some of her students the idea of loaning and checking out books, and she’s even corrected some students who thought they needed to pay for library books.

“With this added layer of ordering then having to go to the reference desk to pick up the book, I worry that students will see using the books as more of a bother, as less accessible then digital resources, or will simply give up in trying to navigate the system,” she said.

The Library Next project is expected to be completed in early 2020.

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