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Why Vermont State’s digital library idea is so controversial

Higher Ed Dive: “…Vermont State University — a new institution to be formed from three existing Vermont public colleges — has announced that it will be transforming its libraries to be “all-digital. Alhough the physical spaces will continue to serve students, administrators said print materials will no longer be procured for students who do not have a documented accommodation showing they need them. The university will maintain a core of print books that are either highly used or essential to curricula and can’t be found digitally, but will not be keeping most of its print collection. While some librarians say the decision is arguably nothing drastically new in the world of college libraries, other university librarians and students have criticized the move, saying it goes far beyond the practices of other digitally inclined institutions. As library digitization grows, so too will conversation about where the line is between an embrace of technology and shunning physical collections..

Elaine Westbrooks, university librarian at Cornell University, expressed similar thoughts. The university’s engineering library is nearly all-digital, but the rest of Cornell is not digital-first. Digital might be right for engineering but more difficult for other disciplines, she said. “What Vermont State did is actually not very new,” Westbrooks said. “What can be learned from this whole situation is that libraries are beloved, they’re iconic and they’re sacred.”

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