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The Entirely Digital Main Library at Florida Polytechnic University Begins Operation


On August 16, 2014 the entirely new Florida Polytechnic University opened for classes at its new campus in Lakeland, Florida, designed by Santiago Calatrava. Its new library housed no physical books, but instead opened with a virtual collection of around 135,000 ebooks. As far as I knew at the time, this was the first main library at a university to open with no physical books. Previously, in 2005 the main library at the University of California, Merced, opened with only a small collection of physical books.

According to an article published in The Guardian on August 29, 2014 by Alison Flood, the director of libraries at Florida Polytechnic, Kathryn Miller said, "We have access to print books through the state university system's interlibrary loan program. However, we strongly encourage our students to read and work with information digitally."

Alison Flood continued: 

"A budget of $60,000 (£36,000) has also been set aside for students to read ebooks that the library doesn't already own. Once a book has been viewed twice on this system, it will be automatically purchased. The set-up, said Miller, 'allows for many more books to be available for the students, and the university only has to pay when the student or faculty member uses the book', allowing students 'to make direct choices regarding the books they want to read and have available in the library'.

"The new university offers courses exclusively in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and Miller said that one of its objectives was to 'prepare students for the high-tech workforce by giving them hands-on experience with advanced technology'. 

" 'The ability to read, absorb, manage and search digital documents and conduct digital research are skills of growing importance in industry,' she said, with the new digital-only library 'designed to help students become better technology users and learners' ".

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