When I started teaching, books were easier to find than articles, whose references were buried deep in voluminous, thin-paged indexes. Students took different paths in their research and came up with wildly different sets of texts, states a piece in ths weeks Chronicleof Higher Education:
“Some checked out the better books early, leaving the others to scrounge for what was left. Sure, there was overlap, but students often ended up with individualized research materials, exercising their critical abilities to integrate what they found into a coherent, cohesive discussion. As periodical-search engines blossomed, students, ever adaptable, started using more articles. While the electronic card catalog remained more or less static, the search engines became increasingly user-friendly. It became so difficult to get students to use books in their research that I started stipulating that they use a minimum number in my assignments.
“Then the development of Google and of electronic journals essentially converged. Why bother with books and the stacks when you can search full-text articles online? The process has become even more alluring with database products like Discover (which our libraries enthusiastically characterize as “the scholarly version of Google!”). It searches millions of entries, including all of the library catalog, the most-used journal databases, and local historical collections. Like Google, Discover ranks findings according to relevance. With the aid of our reference librarians, students easily set up their searches to obtain exactly what they think they’ll need, usually in the form of full-text articles.
“Consequently, my students hardly ever consult books. Circulation statistics support this impression. In 2005 our libraries checked out or renewed 86,807 books or other media. That number has been steadily declining. By 2012, the number had dropped to 45,394, down 48 percent in seven years.
Why am I bothered by these developments? Well, partly because modern library design mirrors student preferences. Increasingly, libraries are social spaces—with Wi-Fi, study nooks, coffee shops, chat areas, and movable furniture—and not homes for books, which are relegated to off-site repositories, save for a few recent acquisitions. If a student wants a book, she can requisition it. I cannot imagine students already deterred by the stacks having much patience for the repository.”
Full article at: http://chronicle.com/article/Unintentional-Knowledge/139891/