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Workshop to explore 'The Future of Print'

As books move out of Hayden Library, in preparation for its impending renovation, ASU Library is developing plans for how they will return.

"The printed book has a long and glorious future in front of it, but it won't come about as a result of negligence," says University Librarian Jim O'Donnell, the principal investigator of a grant that is looking at new ways to envision print collections in the digital age.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the grant project aims to explore how print materials will co-exist with digital ones at a time when many libraries around the world are significantly reducing their print collections in favor of adding more community and study space.

Titled "The Future of the Academic Library Print Collection," the grant project will bring together librarians, faculty and key participants in library architecture, March 16-17, on ASU's Tempe campus, for a two-day, hands-on workshop to discuss major issues and new design strategies for print curation in the 21st century. 

The results of the workshop will directly inform ASU and MIT plans for library renovations, as well as produce a whitepaper on the sustainable and meaningful future of local print curation in academic libraries.

Although digital and print collections are often presented as being in opposition to one another, comparing them is often a case of apples and oranges, says O'Donnell. 

"Digital media allow speedy access and easier cooperation between libraries and scholars across the country, but print offers historical specificity and a staying power that has yet to be matched by any digital format," says O'Donnell. "Taken together, they offer a chance for libraries to build collections aimed at the communities that they serve without having to give up on breadth."

O'Donnell says a large part of the project is therefore to think about how to tap into the best traits of both approaches to collection, and sees the upcoming renovation of ASU's largest library as a great opportunity to rethink how the academic library print collection might engage and inspire its communities as never before.

"Books and other cultural artifacts survive and flourish when there is a community that cherishes them. Our job in the next generation is to cherish the print book and nurture it into its next stage of flourishing," he says.

With that goal in mind, the workshop will focus on ways to make library collections more accessible and engaging with a special eye towards serving the learning, researching and cultural needs of local communities.

Katherine Reagan, curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Cornell Libraries and founder of Cornell University's hip hop collection, will be the event's keynote speaker.