[LINK] SMH: 'Books get the shove ..'

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Mar 8 10:32:17 AEDT 2011

Books get the shove as university students prefer to do research online
Yuko Narushima
Sydney Morning Herald
March 8, 2011

THE University of NSW is throwing away thousands of books and 
scholarly journals as part of a policy that critics say is turning 
its library into a Starbucks.

Academics say complete journal collections, valuable books and 
newspapers dating to the 19th century are being thrown out to clear 
space for cafe-style lounges.

The Herald has obtained an internal document listing thousands of 
titles due to be pulled from shelves. The 138-page ''weeding'' list 
includes encyclopaedias, dictionaries, books in foreign languages and 
texts on psychology, politics and morality.

The policy, which until recently required librarians to remove 50,000 
volumes each year, does not allow the last Australian copy of any 
book to be discarded. But it has opened an ideological row about the 
function of modern libraries as more research material becomes 
accessible online.

Already, thousands of books have been dumped in skips in the library 
basement and staff in various disciplines say they have not been 
given the opportunity to salvage them.

''This is a scandal. It's outrageous on a whole number of different 
levels,'' said Peter Slezak, an associate professor in the school of 
history and philosophy. ''Anyone that has anything to do with books 
is distressed at this. They are extremely good books.''

The cleanout has so upset some that library staff have rescued books 
destined for the bin. One former library assistant said he had taken 
more than 200 books. ''If the book's not borrowed in the last couple 
of years, they throw it out,'' he said. ''Most libraries see their 
function as an archive but these guys see it almost like a video 
store. After you've had the book five years, why keep it?''

Most shocking, he said, was the disposal of a collection of 
newspapers from the 1850s and 1860s.

''They're getting rid of books to make space for students to sit 
around, have lunch and plug their laptops in. Bizarrely, they've 
turned the library into a kind of a Starbucks,'' Professor Slezak 

A university spokeswoman said that since August library policy no 
longer set a target for the number of books to cull. Superseded 
textbooks were hard to give away, some titles were moved into storage 
and libraries worldwide faced the same dilemma, she said.

''The library has an ongoing program to remove print journals where 
online archival access is provided. Our academic community prefers to 
use the online versions and they use them very heavily,'' she said.

Dr John Golder, a visiting research fellow in theatre, feared the 
digitisation of libraries would prevent students stumbling across new 
information. ''A serendipitous discovery is impossible when the book 
isn't there,'' he said.

A professor in the school of history and philosophy, David Miller, 
understood libraries could not preserve everything but thought 
consultation could be improved. ''There's something profoundly wrong, 
and symbolically wrong, about a university destroying books,'' he 
said. ''Universities are in the business of passing on knowledge and 
books - no matter how the use of books is shrinking - still remain a 
very important symbol of knowledge.''

Roger Clarke                                 http://www.rogerclarke.com/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW
Visiting Professor in Computer Science    Australian National University

More information about the Link mailing list