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Florida Polytechnic Library Goes Book-Free


College students across the country are ditching heavy textbooks for digital copies. Is that beginning to happen in libraries? Florida's new state university, Florida Polytechnic, won't have a single physical block. It's the first university whose main library is totally digital. We're joined now by Kathryn Miller, the director of libraries at Florida Polytechnic. She's at WFSU in Tallahassee. Thanks very much for being with us.

KATHRYN MILLER: Thank you for having me.

SIMON: Why'd you decide to go all digital?

MILLER: Well, the objective of Florida Polytechnic is to prepare students for the high-tech workforce. We want to give them hands-on experience with advanced technology. And to do that through the library is a really key way for us to teach our students how to use information and then how to apply that information in a setting similar to what they'll find in the workplace.

SIMON: You have professional librarians there who might say to a student, you ought to take a look at this or that?

MILLER: Absolutely. And that's one of the great things about being digital. The librarians' time can be dedicated to working with our students in a teaching role. So a large part of my job and my colleagues' jobs includes being in the classroom, working with the students, showing them how to organize their information digitally.

SIMON: It was irresistible. I thought about a couple of my favorite books - Ben Hecht, "A Child Of The Century" and Edwin O'Connor's wonderful novel, "The Last Hurrah." There are no e-editions, at least for the moment. So if a student at Florida Polytechnic wanted to read those books, what would he or she have to do?

MILLER: The student could find that book through our integrated library system. And let's say it was available here at Florida State University. They could request that the book be sent from Florida State to Florida Polytechnic.

SIMON: So I'm going to guess that you're familiar with libraries that have what we call stacks?


SIMON: So what's it like to be in this place?

MILLER: Well, stacks are a great part of so many libraries. But without having the stacks, the request time is right at the user's fingertips.

SIMON: So what happens when someone of a different generation walks into your library?

MILLER: When the parents and students first came to Poly and they saw no books in our library, the parent's reaction was really of concern. The students, however, their eyes were wide open saying, oh, this is great and this is wonderful. I can bring my tablet and I can work through the library. As we talked to parents, then the parents understood how the library is moving forward, how it's going to contribute to my child's experience at the university. And yes, they can still meet others in the library and have that social aspect that many of us have experienced with libraries.

SIMON: Kathryn Miller, director of libraries at Florida Polytechnic University. Thanks very much for being with us.

MILLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.