Lfo p o f
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future of scholarship. Through the gracefully curved panes,
we can see all the elements that go into a bricks-and-mortar
library in the Information Age.
On one floor, a lone student snuggles into an overstuffed
chair equipped with Internet connections and electrical
outlets. On another, half a dozen students gather around a
u-shaped table, each contributing to a group project on a flat
screen before them. On a third, students interested in video
game design test their skills on a 60-inch LCD television.
Behind these students, undergraduate and graduate students
and faculty navigate row upon row of moving shelves that
efficiently house more than a million books whose pages hold
information that will probably never reach the Internet.
Farther in, librarians staff a massive circulation and refer-
ence desk where they will answer 150,000 questions a year
- many via instant messaging and check out more than a
Before the first shovel of dirt was turned on this $30 mil-
lion upgrade and expansion of Library West, we spent consid-
erable time asking students and faculty what they wanted in a
new library. The answer was often very different, depending
on who was responding.
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of what they need can be found in that way.
So we devoted most of the original Library West building
to electronic resources more than 130 computer terminals
to go with wireless and wired networking throughout. We also
increased our subscriptions to electronic journals and books to
more than 80,000 titles.
But as our graduate students and faculty told us not
everything they need is on the Internet, and not everything on
the Internet is accurate. So most of the 55,000 square feet of
new space in Library West is devoted to those moving stacks.
Some have complained that the sophisticated system of rolling
shelves lack the ambiance of the old stacks, but they hold many
times more books in the same amount of space.
The needs of these more advanced scholars highlight the
great paradox of the Information Age it is often harder to
sort through too much information than it is too little.
One of the most valuable functions of the traditional library
remains its exclusivity the judgment that keeps as much
mediocre information out as it keeps quality information in.
Since 1992, the World Wide Web has expanded at dizzying
speed. It contains myriad databases of legal, scientific, his-
torical, literary, mathematical, social science and government
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The Web also contains the ill-considered opinions and erro-
neous discourses of thousands of self-professed experts.
All these resources are returned in searches for information,
creating the infamous downside of the Web "info-chaos."
Further, the Web doesn't have the unique information con-
tained in millions of books and journals published over the
past 500 years and housed in research libraries throughout the
world. Many books still are published only in print format.
And not everything on the Web is free there are charges
for access to much of the Web's high-quality information. So
a Web search in itself does not guarantee either accuracy or
Can libraries ignore the Web? Absolutely not. The job of
integrating print and electronic resources is an enormous one,
and one the library must do if its scholars are to be successful
in their efforts to expand the universe of knowledge. Modern
libraries make their catalogs available to Web-crawlers so their
contents will appear to students and scholars in Google and
other Web searches. We purchase access to high-quality data-
bases for our users and we provide guides to Internet resources.
The function of research universities like UF is to create
new knowledge and to transmit knowledge to new generations.
Research and learning are at the heart of the educational pro-
cess. Basic to the university's purpose is to create an archive, a
record of what has been learned, to serve as a resource for both
research by scholars and learning by students. Libraries archive
that record and provide access to it in systematic ways.
Libraries are the vital center of university life, selecting,
storing, organizing and protecting ideas. Libraries provide
expensive services, things students and faculty can't provide for
themselves, things that it makes sense for the whole communi-
ty to share such as expensive scientific information, space and
equipment for all the various formats that contain knowledge
(books, journals, maps, microforms, computers, recordings,
etc.), and assistance for library users to navigate through this
vast array of information to locate what they specifically need
for their academic purpose.
A recent study found that undergraduate students, gradu-
ates and faculty report coming to the library for help in begin-
ning research projects; they felt that printed resources would
still be important to them in five years; and they considered
library-supplied information to be more trustworthy than
information found on the Internet.
And library users want books. Librarians have found that
when we purchase and make available electronic books, sud-
denly the print copies of those books circulate heavily. What's
going on here? The more we digitize older materials, the
greater the demand for the printed version. As search engines
pick up key words and other metadata describing the digital
works, many more people discover relevant books, journals or
manuscripts than they would otherwise.
UF's nine libraries are open more than 100 hours per
week, serving thousands of students every day. More than
two million students and faculty pass the turnstiles of UF's
two largest libraries Library West and Marston Science
Library each year.
Who needs a library? UF does. A place to study, a place to
learn, a place to work with your class team, a place to find the
facts and ideas that form the basis for papers and research.
Despite the growing importance of electronic information,
we believe the library will continue to be a vibrant center of
the university's intellectual life.
40 Fall 2006