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Cervantes: Paper or processors?

BY CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES | AUGUST 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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When I was in first grade, my teacher asked us what we all wanted to be when we grew up. Dozens of my peers wanted to be police officers or doctors, but when it came my time, I had a different vision for my future.

“When I grow up,” 6-year-old me said, “I want to be a librarian.”

At the time it seemed logical. I had just graduated to hard-cover books, and I saw a treasure trove of information in the bookcase jungle. To 6-year-old me, library time was the best time in school.

Sadly, it seems as if my dream job has gotten a much talked about upgrade. Florida Polytechnic University, the newest college in the state, has opened up a library without a single book. The entire library is digital.

This is a topic I have a mixed opinion on.

There are positive sides to a digital library; More information, good for the environment (no books, no dead trees), and a larger appeal to future generations. The digital library can copy and preserve many works far better than traditional one. The cost to maintain a digital library is also significantly lower than its older counterpart, as well as more structured and easier to access. The best part about a digital library though has to be the lack of restrictions. Because everything is accessible via the Internet, students can use the services provided to them 24/7, 365 days a year.

But of course, no system is perfect. One pesky computer virus could be detrimental to the system, and prolonged use of a computer screen can cause mild to severe eye strain. And while a low maintenance cost is a positive, there is a high initial cost because of software installation.

Furthermore, the low maintenance is mostly achieved by staff wages — as in, there are fewer staff members to pay. Translation: Someone is getting fired. Even the easily accessible Internet use is risky. The more people using a Wi-Fi server, the slower browsing speed will be. How useful would an entirely digital library be if you couldn’t actually access it?

This is a very tricky problem. Personally, I’m torn. I can understand reasons for change and reasons to stay, but the underlying fact is that no one is certain of what is to come with this new practice.

Progress is inevitable, but what we have to be wary of how fast we try to reach the future. Not everyone is ready to embrace new technologies. I believe that the best course of action is to wait and see what is to come. It may not be the most active approach, but it is the best way to determine which way is superior.


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