Uni turning over new leaf

In five years time, library books at Charles Sturt University (CSU) could be a thing of the past.

The nine-campus institution has taken its digital restructure to a new level, meaning the text books and encyclopedias students have used for decades will be systematically phased out, to be replaced by internet hubs and online resources.

At present, the university’s Wagga Wagga campus currently has “hundreds of thousands” of books sitting on tall shelves, although in coming years they will be providing a greater amount of online material.

But while the University of NSW is reportedly “throwing out” books to make room for new computers, the process at CSU won’t quite be that drastic, director of strategic learning and teacher innovation Dr Philip Uys said.

“I’m not sure if they’re going as far as throwing them away, but they’re just not buying new books,” Mr Uys said.

“The libraries are dedicated to providing everything in an online format, so both distance education students and on-campus students receive an equivelant learning experience.”

The CSU academic couldn’t say exactly when the books would disappear from shelves, but guessed it would be “within five years”.

Yesterday the Sydney Morning Herald reported an “ideological row” had emerged at UNSW, after staff were ordered to throw out 50,000 titles a year as part of a policy to adapt to changing technology.

Academics and former librarians were outraged by the demand and even salvaged a number of the discarded books for their personal collection.

Dr Uys said this process of digital replacement is possibly the way of the future for all Australian universities.

“Our library is definately

moving away from books, but our philosophy at Charles Sturt University is to have what we call blended learning,” he said, which incorporates both books and computers.

“You still use paper for what paper is good for - which is heavy reading,” Mr Uys said.

At present, there are 20,000 distance education students at CSU and 13,000 on-campus students. The distance students primarily use online resources to complete their studies. “We’ve got a whole school offering courses only online,” Dr Uys said.

“And every course we offer - whether it be in Dubbo, Bathurst or Albury - has an online presence.”

Dr Uys said as CSU libraries transform, they won’t be physically replacing the books with computers because the majority of students already have access to laptops or mobile technology.

“Forty-two per cent of our students have internet-enabled phones and we imagine that number will increase in the coming years,” he said.