library opening with the first day of classes on Monday at Florida's
newest college features a sunlit arched roof and cozy reading chairs -
but not a single book.
A fully digital library is among the
futuristic features of Florida Polytechnic University's striking
dome-shaped building, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
"It's a boldly relevant decision to go forward without books," said Kathryn Miller, the university's director of libraries.
inaugural class of 550 students, offered scholarships covering tuition
to attend a public university so new it's not yet accredited, can access
more than 135,000 ebooks on their choice of reader, tablet or laptop.
bookless library is a rarity among U.S. colleges but reflects the
high-tech ambitions of the university in Lakeland, Florida. Rising along
a drab stretch of highway between Tampa and Orlando, Florida
Polytechnic envisions building a technology corridor in the image of
Without stacks to organize, librarians staffing
the main reference desk, which is called a success desk, will steer
students to tutoring resources and train them in managing digital
While the library is not paperless, students are
discouraged from using its printers too much, Miller said. They can buy
traditional textbooks in the bookstore, or digital texts when available.
Old-fashioned books can be requested on loan from libraries at Florida's 11 other public universities.
Polytechnic budgeted $60,000 to buy titles through software allowing
students one free browse. With the second click, the university
purchases the digital book.
"Instead of the librarian putting books on the shelf that I think would be relevant, the students are choosing," Miller said.
digital resources in an academic library are not unusual, she said, but
most also have traditional books. The college consulted with similar
libraries run by Nasa and a mostly digital medical school library at the
University of Central Florida in Orlando.
"Digital in some ways
is better. People can find things easier, and they can discover more
things by accident," said Carrie Russell, a policy analyst for the
American Library Association.
The downsides include the difficulty
of preserving information when technology changes, she noted, and
licensing agreements that can require paying annually rather than owning
"In the past, you could buy a reference book and it could sit on your shelf for 120 years," Russell said.
thousand such traditional books were inherited by Florida Polytechnic
and are gathering dust in an off-campus library shared with a nearby
The titles can be browsed digitally and requested online from the new, bookless library.