INSIDE Chico State
0 April 29, 2004
Volume 34 Number 11
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico




From the President's Desk

Briefly Noted



Librarian at Large






Jim Dwyer

Jim Dwyer, Meriam Library

'Got Electronic—Who Needs Print?

Libraries of all types offer ever more resources in electronic formats, often on a round-the-clock basis. The research process has been accelerated with the availability of full-text databases. Electronic books are slowly gaining popularity. More retrospective material is being scanned. Let’s just close those musty, dusty old libraries. Who needs print?

Well, maybe you do.

National surveys continue to indicate that the main reason people use both public and academic libraries is to read printed books and periodicals. They also appreciate “high touch” help (friendly assistance) using the Internet and other “high tech” tools.

Here at CSU, Chico, online support librarian James Tyler worked with the A.S. Bookstore to create both online and print copies of specific “course packs.” The print versions were more popular because the students found them easier to read, study and highlight, and bring to class for discussions. Some of the online users had access or support problems. Although some technical problems were addressed between semesters, the percentage of students preferring print rose from 68 to 83 percent.

The most problematical file type is PDF, the portable document format, which often consists of scanned documents. Low monitor resolution, poor quality of some scanned files, printing and downloading problems, and inability to edit text combine to make PDF files the modern version of microfilm as a least favored format, particularly for longer documents. For more details, see Jacob Nielsen’s article, “PDF: Unfit for Human Consumption,” http://www. It’s short, so please don’t print it! As a bona fide “tree hugger,” I eagerly await the day that reading screens is as pleasant as reading pages.

Although PDF will almost certainly be replaced with an improved technology in the future and digital collections will continue to grow, it is important to continue to fund and staff libraries. Funds are down, while demands are up. If you’d like to test this hypothesis, try taping a big “Library Hours Reduction” sign to the library door. Just make me your beneficiary for your supplementary loss-of limb-insurance if you do.

Jim Dwyer, Meriam Library

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