Garbage Books

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Ohio’s state universities are running out of room for books. Rather than keeping all materials physically in libraries, universities generally store little-used materials in off-site storage facilities.

But these are filling up too fast in Ohio. According to an article by Gina Potthoff in the Columbus Dispatch, the solution is just to throw stuff out:

The book depository on Kenny Road [in Columbus] and four others in the state house overflow from 13 university libraries. All five are running out of space, and there is no money to build more.

The solution for now is what librarians call “de-duplication,” culling the collections so there are just two physical copies of most reference works and journals statewide. That will provide one copy that can be checked out and another that’s kept permanently in the depository.

This may seem like a practical solution but it’s actually very risky. If there are only two copies of something in the whole state what does that state do if something happens to one copy? When schools run out of storage space, they usually build more storage space. They wouldn’t be storing it if it weren’t important.

But now Ohio has decided it can’t afford more buildings, so the solution is to throw out books. As the article explains, “’People don’t need them in print anymore’ because of electronic versions, said Anita Cook, special adviser for library catalogs at OhioLINK.”

So what’s to stop universities from just eliminating the libraries altogether? Why not throw out all the books? After all, so many of them are available electronically. And isn’t that just as good? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer