Libraries across campus weigh in on print versus digital


Print vs. Digital

Paige Brown

The Kent State libraries take different approaches to the print versus digital debate.

Taking a walk around the Kent State campus, one would find that it is home to an Architecture Library, Fashion Library, Performing Arts Library, University Library and Map library.

Each library has its own collections and specializes in different majors, however, each has its own way of looking at print versus digital.

The Architecture Library houses a variety of books, databases, a reading room and an expanding materials library.

“Students seem to like books a lot in architecture,” Marsha Cole, an assistant professor, said. “But with databases, you can download full articles at home.”

Thomas Gates, the head of architecture and fashion libraries, brought up usability issues.

“Databases are not always user-friendly,” Gates said. “When students come in we try to help them on a one-to-one basis.”

While convenience is typically key, for hands-on majors, print may be more beneficial. This is an idea that is shared across the street at the Fashion Library. The Fashion Library is home to specialized books, magazines and forecasting materials.

“It is a nice, comfortable, physical space for studying and working,” said associate professor Edith Serkownek.

“We’re always looking to get material in the form the patron wants, but I think print is still important for the physical quality, you don’t always get that from online resources,” Serkownek said.

Across campus at the Center for the Performing Arts is another place where print is a valuable source. The Performing Arts Library houses all the physical materials for music theatre and dance.

“Students need various things,” head of the Performing Arts Library Joe Clark said. “They need a score that a piano player can play from and turn the page, they can’t do that electronically.”

However, Clark added that we are in a world of mixed formats and that it is not a bad thing.

“One of the advantages of electronic can be access; I can be in Ashtabula on a snow day and access the journal articles I need,” Clark said.

That access is all-important to today’s college students.

“When we do buy books, we try to buy electronic books because students want to have access to them on their devices,” James Bracken, dean of libraries, said. Each major and department may vary in what they use print for, but Kent State University libraries still spend the majority of their money on electronic resources.

“About 87 percent of our budget goes for electronic resources,” Bracken said.

The University Library is home to about three million volumes, as well as special collections and databases.

“Our print collection is a legacy collection, it supports traditional majors,” Bracken said. With new majors rising and databases growing, print is attached to more hands-on majors, such as music composition and interior design, rather than digital dominated majors such as journalism or business.

While print may be considered a dying form in many instances, it appears college students need them more than anyone.

“Print is where we were, digital is where we’re going and we work in both,” Bracken said.

“I’m not saying print is better than digital, I’m not saying that digital is better than print,” Bracken said. “I’m saying that you have to be a consumer of both in our world and in the world to come.”

Paige Brown is the libraries reporter, contact her at [email protected].