Dan Cohen (Northeastern University) in "The Books of College Libraries are Turning into Wallpaper" for the Atlantic (emphasis mine):
There has been a 64 percent decline in the number of books checked out by undergraduates from [Yale's] Bass Library over the past decade...Yale’s experience is not at all unique -- indeed, it is commonplace. University libraries across the country, and around the world, are seeing steady, and in many cases precipitous, declines in the use of the books on their shelves. The University of Virginia, one of our great public universities and an institution that openly shares detailed library circulation stats from the prior 20 years, is a good case study. College students at UVA checked out 238,000 books during the school year a decade ago; last year, that number had shrunk to just 60,000...Before you tsk-tsk today’s kids for their lack of bookishness, note that the trend lines are sliding southward for graduate students and faculty members, too: down 61 percent and 46 percent, respectively, at UVA. Overall, across its entire network of libraries, UVA circulated 525,000 books during the 2007-08 school year, but last year there were only 188,000 loans -- nearly 1,000 fewer books checked out a day...
I teach future teachers, and it's not unusual that even junior and senior students have never once checked out a book from the university libraries. They don't even know how. So I'm not all that surprised by the circulation numbers above.
Change comes, of course, but I think it's exceedingly naive to think this kind of change in the norms at universities and colleges isn't necessarily associated with concomitant, worrisome trends toward illiteracy and aliteracy. Students and faculty, so far as I can tell, are not reading more journal articles. They're not reading more and better textbooks. They're not reading journalism. Seems safe to say, outside of social media, they're, in general, just not reading.
Maybe the universities of the future will have libraries, but they seem as likely to be giant rumpus rooms or huge ballpits overlooking a lazy river water ride as they are to be a home for books and readers thereof.» Permalink