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View from above of workstations and bookshelves in the library at the University of Magdeburg (Photo: Jana Dünnhaupt / University of Magdeburg)
21.12.2023 from 
Campus + City
A library without books?

Close your eyes and imagine a library. What do you think of? Lots of old books, long aisles and silence? That's how I feel, anyway. But of course, change and digitalization don't stop at libraries. So what will a library of the future look like? And more specifically: What will our university library (UB) look like in the future? It is clear that our university library is facing a major transformation and, in keeping with its twentieth anniversary this year, we have been busy making some structural changes! "The roof has been renovated and the interior has been extended. This is a really, really big project for us, which also affects all colleagues in the building and many areas of the university," says Deputy Library Director, Dr. Christine Lücke. Apart from short periods of closure to erect and dismantle scaffolding, the work took place during the library's opening hours. There was an urgent need for action, especially when it came to the roof: "Many people may have noticed that as soon as it rained, there were garbage cans all over the library to catch the drops, because it was actually raining in. At the same time, the library was also equipped with photovoltaics when the roof was renovated, thus taking a step towards sustainability."

Portrait Dr. Lücke vor der Universitätsbibliothek (c) Anna Friese Uni MagdeburgDr. Christine Lücke (Photo: Anna Friese / University of Magdeburg)

But is a library, as described at the beginning, with narrow aisles, lots of books and few seats still up to date? According to Dr. Lücke, this depends above all on the users. Because of course there are people who are looking for exactly that: A quiet place to do research with printed books. "But there is also quite a high proportion of students and staff who are looking for the opportunity to work in groups and do creative work. So the demand for this is very high. The group rooms we have are always more than fully utilized, as are the individual workstations. So at the moment there is a massive shortage of rooms for 2 to 3 people." With the construction measures in the interior, new offers are now to be created for this, as well as meeting places within the UB, such as open reading areas, and the terrace is also being expanded. "In the end, I think it's about offering users different settings for the various needs they have. Be it from the classic office workstation as we know it: desk and chair, to a standing workstation, a leaning or reclining workstation or computer workstations," describes the deputy library director.

However, changes are not only pending in the structural area, but the library is also constantly evolving in terms of the media it offers. At the moment, the collection is being critically reviewed. This also means that some books will be "thrown out", to put it colloquially, because they are old editions of textbooks, for example. All books are being looked at critically. This also creates space for change. "And we are also working on our digital media, for example in the direction of transformative contracts, and we want to push ahead with open access. So that our digital offering is also constantly being expanded," says Dr. Lücke. Of course, most people think of books when they hear the word library, but these are by no means the entire range. "Books are only a fraction of what we are. We now have more e-books than printed books and the use of e-books is also increasing, and we also offer databases and digital journals. Above all, digital use has advantages: No matter where in the world our researchers or students are, they can always access our media." And, of course, they also offer training courses, which can also be used in hybrid form since the pandemic.

Glaskabine mit Einzelarbeitsplatz in der Universitätsbibliothek Magdeburg (c) Anna Friese Uni Magdeburg Studentin sitzt an einem Schreibtisch in der Universitätsbibliothek Magdeburg und arbeitet am Laptop (c) Jana Dünnhaupt Uni MagdeburgQuiet individual workstations and digital media are particularly popular in the university library. (Photo 1: Anna Friese / Photo 2: Jana Dünnhaupt / University of Magdeburg)

But will digitalization take its toll at some point and will there eventually be a library without books because we only read e-books? For Dr. Christine Lücke, the answer to this, admittedly very pointed, question is all about the shades of grey: "It's not a question of black or white. Of course there is a trend towards digital media, but there will always be books in libraries. I can't imagine a library without books." However, she has a clear idea of what the university library of the future should look like: "Ideally, it will be a central point of attraction on campus, it will be inviting, a space for diversity and definitely offer a high quality of stay. It is intended as a place to meet, to exchange ideas, but also to work quietly."

And if you close your eyes now, you might feel like me and you can already see it, the future university library that Dr. Lücke wants and which is to be built this year.

Author: Lisa Baaske
Source: uni:report anniversary edition 2023