Books and Learning: Go Mobile, Stay Clueless

May 27, 2019

I read “The Books of College Libraries Are Turning into Wallpaper.” The main idea is that today’s students are not using libraries to locate books which are then read, thought about, and analyzed in order to:

  1. Learn
  2. Find useful facts
  3. Exploit serendipity
  4. Figure out which source or sources is relevant to a particular issue or topic.

The Atlantic states about Yale University:

There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from Bass Library over the past decade.

News flash.

Once online information systems found their way into libraries in the 1980s, the shift from books to online information access was underway. How do I know? I worked at the database unit of the Courier Journal & Louisville Times. Greg Payne and Dennis Auld acquired the Abstracted Business Information product and converted it to an online research source for those interested in the major journal articles about commercial enterprises. The Courier Journal acquired the database product and marketed ABI/INFORM to university libraries with some success. Many people rowed the boat that raced to become one of the most widely accessed business information databases in the world in the period from 1980 to 1986 when other online products nibbled into ABI/INFORM’s position.

The point is that 1980 to 2019 is the period in which the shift from journals and books to online for certain types of research has been chugging along.

Net net: The decline in the use of books has been underway for more than 39 years. The consequence is less informed people who routinely tell me, “I am an expert researcher.” What these individuals lost in a cloud of unknowing do not comprehend is that someone is deciding for them what is relevant and important. You may call atrophied thinking an oddity. I call it “deep stupid.” In a well stocked library one can become deeply informed.

Stephen E Arnold, May 27, 2019


One Response to “Books and Learning: Go Mobile, Stay Clueless”

  1. Marydee Ojala on May 27th, 2019 7:18 am

    Fact-checking nitpick here: Greg and Denny created ABI/INFORM (ABI=Abstracted Business Information) and then sold it to the Courier Journal). I was a beta tester before the database got loaded onto Dialog.

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