UI residence halls see decrease in phonebook use


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Old, unused phone books lay strewn across the front desks of residence halls, barely touched each year. University of Iowa officials said they doubt whether these books will see use anytime soon.

The residence halls at the UI have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of phone books ordered each year because of a decrease in interest and use.

Carolyn Kiser-Wacker — the assistant to the senior director of University Housing & Dining — said she realizes student use is decreasing.

"It's a customer service to our students, but our students don't really want or need the service anymore," she said.

In 2011, residence-hall officials ordered 870 phone books — a 400-book difference from the year before, and an almost 3,705-book difference since 2006 — and officials said the dorms will continue to decrease their orders each year.

The phone books are ordered at no cost to the university through two companies — Dex and Yellowbook. The orders are placed in August and September, and the residence halls receive them in October and November.

Liz Christiansen, the director of the UI Office of Sustainability, said the university is moving toward more efficient ways of acquiring information.

"More and more of our campus operations are moving toward electronic operations," she said. "Once something is printed, it is dated and cannot be updated until the next round of printing."

Kiser-Wacker said she has noticed the phone books are more popular for visitors on campus.

"More parents pick up the phone books from the front desk than the students do," she said. "They are more popular with parents and our summer guests."

Students at the UI have also expressed a lack of interest in the phone books.

UI junior Kristin Engdahl said she thinks phone books may one day become extinct.

"I've never really found a use for one," she said. "They have a Dex online."
Housing and Dining officials said the residence halls discard around 2 percent of every yearly phone book order — totaling approximately five to 10 books every year.

"We'll continue to cut them back if the students do not use them," she said.

Iowa State University officials said they have not ordered any phone books since 2009.

Lisa Ludovico — assistant director for administrative services in the ISU Department of Residence — said discontinuing the order was part of the school's Live Green Initiative.

"What we were seeing was a decrease in residents accepting and taking the books," she said. "Of the 4,700-odd books we were ordering, we were ending up with more and more remaining at the desk."

Ludovico said she hopes phone books disappear in the near future.

"Personally, I can count on one hand [the times] I have used a physical phone book to look up a number in the last 10 years," she said.

Sustainability advocates at the UI agree.

"I think the trend will continue to more and more electronic options," Christiansen said. "However, there may still be a use in certain places and locations for a printed version [of a phone book]."

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