College Libraries: Forget The Books, Host LAN Parties

from the and-if-so,-what-should-be-done? dept

Libraries are struggling to keep up with the times, as more people find they can just do research directly online — even if there are many, many problems associated with using only online sources when doing research. College libraries face this problem more than many others, as their patrons tend to be more “net native” than regular public libraries. A few years ago, we wrote about a college library that got rid of the books, and converted the space to more of a lounge area with lots of digital connectivity. Now, John points us to an article with a variety of suggestions on how librarians should change university libraries to cater to a more internet savvy user base. One interesting suggestion (that is getting some attention) is the idea that the various digital tools offered in a library should act more like video games. Basically, the point is that “net natives” are willing to just jump in and explore, without reading a detailed set of instructions. If library research tools aren’t that intuitive and require instructions, they simply won’t get used. However, more user-friendly, “game-like” tools will be more natural. Some of the other suggestions included obvious things like offering help via SMS and instant messaging, and a few “out there” ideas like hosting after hours LAN parties at the library. It’s not entirely clear what that has to do with the library’s charter, but I’m sure some students wouldn’t mind.

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Comments on “College Libraries: Forget The Books, Host LAN Parties”

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A man says:

the problem with lan parties is that the schools net is usually maxed fairly well, I think the best i can get away with is TM: Nations at the library or i will lag out. this last year whenever i went to find books at the library half the time they werent on the shelf so that may lead to a more net oriented approach by most students

Anonymous Coward says:

a library should act more like video games

That’s what we need – make everything like an f’ing video game. NOT!

Then we’ll really have to hire foreigners because we’re too dumb; and the few remaining people that actually read books will have nobody with whom they can share an interesting conversation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: a library should act more like video games

That’s what we need – make everything like an f’ing video game. NOT!

Then we’ll really have to hire foreigners because we’re too dumb; and the few remaining people that actually read books will have nobody with whom they can share an interesting conversation.

You need to watch a story about our future…Idiocracy…

A N Other says:

book search

Maybe thse libraries that are providing digital connectivity need to help their students by giving them access to ‘paid material’ on the web, like lots of newspapers have up.

Or just get all the books owned by the library previously scanned and indexed so that they can be accessed via the local LAN, and no one needs to find the physical book any more. Smaller scale version of Google Book Search. And the books would always be avalible to all the students.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: book search

“Paid material” in licensed information sources is, very likely, already available from your college or public library. Most libraries will have a link on their websites to “databases”. (By “databases” they mean resources like ProQuest, where you can find articles from all the major newspapers and magazines, and online fulltext medical and other kinds of specialized journals. College libraries especially are good resources for that kind of thing – and most will give or sell you a community access card if you live nearby).
— Your friendly techdirt-reading librarian

Luke says:

I went to the Library twice while in school (2001-2005) and each time was told that the book was on reserve so it couldn’t leave the building or it was already checked out. Libraries aren’t that useful unless they’re absolutely huge and capable of stocking many multiples of every book…which is impossible. So going to a digital library is much, much better as it removes the scarcity of the information.

Fox says:

I'm A Teacher.......

In the private high school I teach in, any student that uses only internet sources for any paper can be fail the assignment, regardless of how well the paper is written. The student handbook clearly states that unless the assignment specifically directs a student to use only internet sources, they are to use the resources of the school or public library.

I agree with this policy, not because it’s part of my job, but because there are too many students and others who are ready to toss all books into the dumpster. Anyone that uses only online sources runs the risk of using bad or unverified information. Too many students get lazy and won’t do a source check on the information they’ve obtained.

Some grouse at this policy, but education isn’t just passing in papers on time, it’s understanding the entire process. It’s a skill that serves students throughout their life

interval says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm A Teacher.......

Good point. Another thing that Universities need to get past is the fact that libraries are now passe, another relic of a post-internet world, much like record companies. Projects like Gutenberg will do this. Its a huge effort, but its ongoing and will be accomplished soon enough.

Simon says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm A Teacher.......

Isn’t Gutenberg just another library, though? The Internet Archive certainly is (

Libraries are changing, obviously (I spend most of my time searching for information at a computer screen, not in the book stacks). But they’re far from obsolete.

Once, the advantage of libraries was that they enabled anyone to read large numbers of books that they couldn’t afford to buy themselves. Now, libraries still enable people to read books, but now allow them to use databases that they couldn’t afford to subscribe to themselves. Plus there are people like me who are trained to know which sources are most useful for students, and to help students find them.

On the original topic: this idea sounds interesting and is something I’ll keep an eye on (though I’m a bit sceptical of the idea that all digital natives are ‘jump in without reading the instructions’ types, and all non-natives prefer to RTFM first).

Hua Fang (profile) says:

Re: Re: I'm A Teacher.......

A mechanism can be set up to check validity of sources, which can be called “Concept Match”. In pure mathematical reasoning, such mechanism has been set up. For instance, if somebody say “1+1=3”, a computer can tells you that based on the law of arithmetic’s, “1+1” should be “2”, unless you are following different rule, or say that you are talking different thing other than “law of arithmetic’s”, most likely, a free will which needs further definition (some “creative” un-common sense. Anyway, a analogy from an extended line of reasoning, a general theory has been proposed, which is named “Codonology”…… In short, with aid of computer, the “concept match” we are talking about earlier can be done based on the theory of Codonology. Again, please re-visit my web site for the detail at
Have a good future!
Hua Fang, MD

jon says:

You really need to read a transcript of the presentation and understand the things happening with libraries right now to contextualize this. I personally only know enough to know that I am not quite there.

However, I will say this— this is a chunk of a larger discussion on how technology should be included in libraries. There is a lot of talk right now about how libraries are behind the rest of the world in embracing technology— specifically in terms of usability and as guardian of information and as place community activity.

The talk doesn’t suggest that research should be fun with lots of colors and high scores, but more that the tools should be more intuitive. It’s an argument for usability. For a long time the tools available at libraries have required the user to thoroughly learn each of their esoteric “rules” before becoming useful. That is a bad system and librarians are starting to figure out that it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sanguine Dream says:

I know I'm the exception not the rule...

Basically, the point is that “net natives” are willing to just jump in and explore, without reading a detailed set of instructions

When I get a video game that is new to me (like for example Pikmin) I do read the manual.

I’m all for making increasing ease of use for libraries but to just act as if instructions are not or should not be needed would alienate a lot of people. The population of net savvy people is growing everyday but I think its a little too soon for that.

One problem that does need to be addressed is the limited number of copies of a given book. If a professor assigns a project/paper that requires a certain book then everyone in the class is going to go for it. Ten copies – 30 thirty students = 20 having to look elsewhere. Offering the book electronically would allow more students at a time to access it.

And besides this would really cut down of overdue book charges (which I suspect like the banking industry is where a good bit of money comes in from).

But I have to say that while I am all for electronic school books (especially text books, those things aren’t cheap) I’d much rather have my casual reading books on paper. I can’t imagine curling up with a laptop (ebook readers aren’t that far along yet) at night before bed.

Hua Fang (profile) says:

Again, Codonology!

Clearly, it is back to the same scenario I mentioned in previous blog of discussion, simply say “Concept Search Technology”, or say the theory and technology for true “concept search”. Please re-visit for such discussion again, but from different instance like today’s topics. Please make your comments to me (
Hua Fang, MD

Hoeppner says:

what do you mean companies already refuse to hire american worker and prefer to get a foreign worker a green card

and half the non-ref-books I had to use at my campus last year were miss filed. that’s not saying much considering I only needed to check out three.

Petréa Mitchell says:

Depends on your students

This should come with a caveat that the suggestions only seem to be aimed at universities where the student body is of the traditional college age. I took my first few college classes at a community college where the average student age was 34. A lot of my classmates were women in their 40s and 50s who’d started families straight after high school rather than going to college. I’m thinking this is not your ideal demographic for video-game-like library tools.

jerry (user link) says:

Where is that book?

I work in a community college library in California. Part of the reason to add lan parties to the library is to get people in. The Internet has many site with information. Some good and some not. By getting the students into the library and making a place to find information they will also be introduced to information competency, a way to determine if your source of information is valid or not.

As for online resources, we pay $15,000 a year to provide free access to 60+ database sites that include newspaper, magazine and professional journal articles.

If you check with your local library you may fine that the card catalog has bee replaced with a web accessible database of all items that not only tells you the item is out but allows you to place a hold so that you are the next to use it. They also may provide Inter-library Loan Services as we do, getting books and articles you need from other libraries.

Libraries are also providing reference service via phone, email IM and in some areas a 24/7 online system that will help you find what you need.

Check into you local libraries offering, including community college as they often allow community members a level of access. You will likely find anything you need and or want to know.

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