Visitors at the Sharjah Book Fair. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf news

Sharjah: The latest trends and technologies in libraries were shared at the Libraries Conference, which was launched at the International Sharjah Book Fair on Wednesday.

Rick Anderson, Associate Dean for Scholarly Resources and Collections in the J. Willard Marriott Library in the University of Utah, said the most noticeable change in today’s libraries is the switch from reading to talking.

“This is one of the biggest changes, libraries are no longer a place where you study quietly and get hushed at by the librarian if you speak. Spaces in the library have changed from silent study rooms to spaces for collaboration and group work.”

He said most libraries today were made up of open spaces and group study rooms with a few quiet rooms.

Libraries around the world are also moving from print to digital. The new trend is to digitise rare documents such as handwritten scripts and make them available to the world online.

Anderson said because of the emergence of e-books, fewer and fewer books have been checked out in the last 15 years, adding that this should not be something libraries should hide or deny.

“Our library has three million printed books, these books are taking up valuable space that could otherwise be used by the students to work. We are planning on moving all these books to a small storage area next to the library. They can view them through the e-catalogue online, then ask the librarian to fetch it for them.”

Previously librarians had to guess what people would want to read and often they would be wrong and consequently have books sitting on shelves for years without being read.

Anderson said this had changed and libraries have access to thousand of e-books that they have not been purchased yet. When the book gets used a lot the library is charged and it becomes permanent at the library.

“Books that have not been read will disappear and be replaced with new books,” he said.

Libraries have also moved from consumption to creating using technology such as a 3D printer and an Espresso Book Machine (EBM.) Anderson said the latter is a machine that can print a book within five minutes on demand.

Libraries now do more than just gather information. “We see many libraries today become publishers of their own journals. In many cases these are student journals.

The two-day library conference, which has been organised in collaboration with the American Library Association, will tackle issues relevant to librarians in public, academic, schools, government, and private libraries, with a number of international and local experts taking the stand.