Are We Throwing out the Books with the Bathwater?: Dilemmas over New Directions in Library Design

The growing popularity of digital media has led to a fundamental re-evaluation of the role of libraries as they strive to maintain their relevance to their patrons’ changing needs. This is having a significant impact on their design and space use requirements, including a reduction in the areas dedicated to book stacks. However, recent research suggests that the trend toward digital may be changing with a resurgence of physical media. Is there risk of losing the essential qualities that make libraries such distinct and appealing places as stacks are replaced by more informal spaces and increasingly diverse activities? This article discusses trends in library design, investigates the long-term effects of adopting new activities, and considers the extent to which these new activities should replace books. Referring to recent research on reading habits and to examples of contemporary library architecture, this article cautions against the wholesale relegation or removal of physical books for a number of reasons—not least because buildings evolve much more slowly than digital technologies, and once adaptations are made they are likely to be long lived.

Active Reading on Tablet Textbooks: Comparative Assessment of Two Systems

Tablet textbooks have combined the physical affordances of traditional books with video, audio, interactive graphics, and more. However, existing tablet textbook designs do not sufficiently support learners’ active reading needs and goals when multimedia content is integrated. Specifically, learners often struggle to make sense of and remember content delivered in multimedia formats, are distracted by the mechanics of interactive content, and grapple with transient audiovisuals. This article explores the nature of active reading in the tablet environment through a study that empirically evaluates SMART Note—novel digital active reading support tools—against active reading tools currently on the market. SMART Note outperformed existing tools on learning experience, process, and outcomes by mitigating distractions caused by complex interaction patterns, offering visual references to collections of annotations, and providing improved tools for annotating and studying audiovisuals. This article can inform future design of tablet textbooks and tools to support digital active reading.

The Mayan Written Word: History, Controversy, and Library Connections

The ancient Mayans were an extensively literate culture, yet there are few Mayan books, or codices, that have survived into the modern era. What has endured is the writing found on Mayan temples and tombs and in a handful of remaining Mayan codices. This article is a history of specific Mayan codices: the Paris Codex, the Madrid Codex, and the Dresden Codex, including a discussion of the controversial Grolier Codex and its rediscovery. Included in this article is an overview of the ancient Maya, describing their culture and history, a background on the Mayan language and writing system, and a short history of Mayan book and papermaking. The microhistory of the Mayan texts lends to a discussion of the significance and value of historical documents in libraries, and the usefulness of facsimile reproductions in libraries and research institute collections. This article also includes a discussion of how libraries have contributed to the history and preservation of the Mayan codices.