This article got me thinking about the future of desktop computer work stations in libraries, particularly the title, “Today’s Computer Commons is Tomorrow’s Card Catalog.” I see a lot of students come into the library having already searched the catalog on their phones with the bibliographic record (fancy library talk for the item’s entry in the catalog) and call number at the ready. I also see a lot of students bringing their own laptops for work in our study area with no need for the available workstations in the library.
In this age of Google Glasses and instant info everywhere, one does wonder about the need for these tools, particularly in an academic environment where most, if not all, students have their own personal computers. I do remember the days before laptops when we were tied to big black boxes that took up way too much space. A dear friend of mine was always saying how he was going to move his music printing business, or rather “bidness” as he pronounced it, to the beach some day, accepting orders while sipping a mai tai. I rolled my eyes at his early 1990s prediction, thinking there was no way all the power of a computer could be harnessed into something portable. Clearly, I was wrong.
However, I do see the block of 4 public workstations in front of my desk in the library full or nearly all being used on a daily basis. Obviously, there is need. Despite the proliferation of cell phones, have you ever tried to type a paper on a hand-held? Or longed for the eye-pleasing luxury of a larger screen? Or needed the ease of a keyboard rather than hunting and pecking your letters on the phone? For now, there IS a need for desktops in the library and we’re happy to provide this service here at the RML.