Bookless libraries aren’t quite so far-fetched as they used to be. Florida Polytechnic University, opening for the first time this fall, features a $60 million, Santiago Calatrava-designed main building with a library that doesn’t hold a single paper book within its walls. Instead, the library has space for reading, desks for doing work, and a number of desktops, laptops, and tablets readily available. It joins a small handful of universities that have opened such libraries in recent years. Instead of books, the library has a deal with publishers that lets students access a title once for free. If any other student “takes out” the ebook of that title, the library automatically purchases it for its collection.
There are no dusty bookshelves or piles of textbooks in the library of Florida’s newest university. Welcoming its first students this week, Florida Polytechnic University’s new library houses not a single physical book. Instead, its inaugural class of 500 will have access to around 135,000 ebooks. “Our on-campus library is entirely digital,” said director of libraries Kathryn Miller. “We have access to print books through the state university system’s interlibrary loan program. However, we strongly encourage our students to read and work with information digitally.” The 11,000 square-foot library is situated within a huge, white-domed building, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Eschewing physical books, it is a bright, open space featuring computer terminals, desks, and comfortable spots to read. A budget of $60,000 (£36,000) has also been set aside for students to read ebooks that the library doesn’t already own. Once a book has been viewed twice on this system, it will be automatically purchased. The set-up, said Miller, “allows for many more books to be available for the students, and the university only has to pay when the student or faculty member uses the book”, allowing students “to make direct choices regarding the books they want to read and have available in the library”.