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Florida Polytechnic University features a bookless library

by Public Libraries on August 29, 2014

Data center

The newest public university in Florida is trying something a little different with its 11,000 square-foot structure – going totally green. Florida Polytechnic University, located in Lakeland is taking a bold step by offering a digital catalog of 135,000 ebooks. Paper books will not be offered at the fully digital library.

FPU, which is not yet an accredited school, has an enrollment of 550 students in its inaugural class. Students are encouraged to do all of their research online. The library has several printers on the premises but students are discouraged from using them.

Kathryn Miller, director of libraries said it’s not how information is obtained but what is discovered that matters most. Once students are out of college they must be able to track down information and apply it in both a scholarly and professional way.

The newly-finished massive dome structure was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who has a reputation of blending advanced engineering solutions with dramatic visual statements.

Digital resources in an academic library are not unusual but it is extremely rare however to have a bookless library in the United States. The first bookless public library opened in San Antonio just last year. The emphasis on digital books points to the University’s strong desire to increase technology standards within the area.

Florida Polytechnic sought advice from similar libraries including NASA and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

One would assume that with an increase in technology, the need for a library staff would be minimal. This is not the case, there is still a need to direct students to the correct resources and train them on how to properly use digital equipment.

The library relies on students having digital access to a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. FPU as a whole still allows students to purchase traditional textbooks from campus bookstores. Digital textbooks are preferred when available.

Paper books, while discouraged, can be requested on loan from Florida’s 11 other public university libraries.

Florida Polytechnic knew going digital would be expensive having budgeted $60,000 toward the endeavor. The software used for the ebooks allows students to browse through the book once for free. FPU would then be charged for the ebook if browsed through more than once.

Miller said this gives students a real choice in the matter rather than having a librarian place a book on the shelf that many students would deem irrelevant.

Carrie Russell, a policy analyst for the American Library Association believes digital makes browsing much simpler for the students. With everything at their fingertips, it makes it easier for the student to discover something new and enjoyable.

She said there are downsides, including the difficulty of preserving information in an ever-changing technological environment. It is also gets tricky with licensing agreements that require annual payments rather than owning the digital information outright.

Russell said a reference book could sit on the book shelf for 120 years with just the initial payment, whereas you may have to pay a yearly fee for digital titles, which can get expensive.

Florida Polytechnic received traditional books when the university first formed, but it decided to donate the books to an off-campus library which is shared by a local community college.


Kindle Books

The Taneyhills Community Library in Branson, Missouri now officially offering ebooks. Kent Olson, Board President of the Taneyhills Community Library said the service became available to its patrons a week ago.

Olson said charging for library cards and other services at the library has helped make it possible to loan out ebooks. Without these small fees, he surmises, it would not have been possible to install an ebook system at this point in time.

Another large boost to the effort comes from the fact that the Taneyhills Community Library is now working in conjunction with the Missouri Libraries 2 Go consortium.

To join the consortium, Taneyhills had to pay a fee of $4,500. In return, the library received access to all ebooks that the eighty-library network has access to. The fee also includes the purchase of the ebooks. With this new deal, the library hopes to have a range of ebooks large enough to satisfy a number of interests.
Olson said around $2,000 went directly toward the purchase of new ebooks for the system. Multiplied by 80 member libraries, it becomes quickly apparent how the collection can grow at a fast clip. The membership fee is based on the population of the serviced area; Taneyhills Community Library has a population between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

There are several other advantages to being a part of the consortium. One of the most notable is that the membership fee is far less than what larger libraries have to pay to curate their own collection, and locals are still able to access the same ebooks in the end.

An influx of new library memberships as well as renewed memberships helped offset some of the cost. Olson believes the excitement the new ebooks will bring will create increased membership as well going forward. He said it is important to emphasize that the members are the ones that make this possible. Without their support it would all just be a dream.

Taneyhills faced devastating financial troubles before it instituted its controversial fees and new Friends membership program. At the end of the 2012 fiscal year, it faced a $5,000 deficit. Luckily, by the end of the 2013 fiscal year it was able to regain proper footing and place $15,000 into a savings account to create new services.

The profit gives Taneyhills Community Library a little more flexibility to make improvements that members have now come to enjoy. One new project Olson would like to pursue in the near future is an online catalogue. The online service will make for better record keeping, he says; an influx of paper work has exhausted many of its resources.

Members can access ebooks online through the library website. Go to and login to the ebook service provider with your library card membership number. Member last names are used as passwords to gain access.

Along with the ebooks, members are also able to download audio books and movies through the online service. These items can be checked out with no additional fee for 14 days. They are automatically returned at deadline.

Ebooks and other downloadable content is available on desktop computers as well as mobile devices including iPhones, iPads, and the Kindle.

Olson said he intends to continue fundraising efforts throughout the community.


Seattle Public Library encourages authors to write ebooks

August 8, 2014
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Seattle Public Library is hoping to pique the interest of area writers with an opportunity to show off their talents in the form of an ebook. The library has partnered with Smashwords, an independent publisher and distributor of ebooks, to offer a self-publishing platform for aspiring and established Seattle, Washington writers. The pair have also teamed up to offer a self-publishing contest, in which up to three individuals will have […]

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Summer programs boost library attendance in Florida

August 4, 2014
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There aren’t many empty seats at the South County Regional Library in Estero, Florida. The library recently reported a significant increase in traffic during the summer months. More than 2.8 million people have visited the 13-branch Lee County Library System this year with South County Regional Library boasting record numbers this summer. Terri Crawford, Deputy Director of Lee County Library System said the response of the community has been great […]

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Miami-Dade County to increase public library budget

July 25, 2014
Thumbnail image for Miami-Dade County to increase public library budget

Miami-Dade County in Florida is experiencing an all-too-familiar crisis in recent years for librarians: public funding and budget crisis have prevented libraries from operating at full capacity for several years now. Combine that with the slow-creeping epidemic of library abandonment amongst youth, and Miami-Dade’s libraries have definitely been feeling the squeeze. Luckily, county commissioners just last week voted for a tax increase in the area that would result in an […]

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Amazon tries to appeal to Hachette authors

July 18, 2014
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The feud between Amazon and Hachette has been detrimental to many authors and readers. Not only are readers not getting access to upcoming titles, authors are not able to market their new releases. Amazon, at least, is now making it possible for the authors to make a bit more money off the ebooks they do manage to sell. Like any other publishing company, Hachette makes a percentage out of every […]

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Borrow a drone from the library?

July 10, 2014
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Libraries are extending their collections beyond books and movies. More than ever, libraries are trying to meet the needs of their communities by providing computers, printers, and classes. However, the recent purchase of drones by the University of South Florida may create even more headaches for them as they consider how the drones are used. The drones that were purchased can fly up to 400 feet above ground and record […]

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Simon and Schuster ebooks are now available at libraries

June 30, 2014
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Within the past decade, traditional hardbound paper books, which have been a staple in society for centuries have slowly given way for ebooks, or electronic books. There are many reasons why ebooks have experienced such a boom in popularity. For one, they are much more convenient. One ereader can hold up to thousands of books, making titles more accessible to readers across the world. That is why many major publishing […]

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Is technology making libraries obsolete?

June 20, 2014
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In 2011, popular political comedian Bill Maher said, “We have the Internet.  We don’t need a library.  I don’t know anyone that has gone to a library since 1998”. Is the tradition of putting ideas in print going the way of the dinosaurs? It can certainly seem that way these days, given all of the new technology we have for gaining knowledge and interacting with the world. Today, about half […]

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Court rules in favor of searchable database of scanned books

June 13, 2014
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It’s every college student’s dream: to be able to use the ‘find function’ so often utilized on computers to pull out bits of text from an actual printed book. While that isn’t exactly what the HathiTrust Digital Library has done, it’s pretty darn close. Basically, since 2008, the project has involved scanning over 10 million books and assorted works into an online database. These books come from a number of […]

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