Bookless libraries aren't quite so far-fetched as they used to be. Florida Polytechnic University, opening for the first time this fall, features a $60 million, Santiago Calatrava-designed main building with a library that doesn't hold a single paper book within its walls. Instead, the library has space for reading, desks for doing work, and a number of desktops, laptops, and tablets readily available. It joins a small handful of universities that have opened such libraries in recent years. Instead of books, the library has a deal with publishers that lets students access a title once for free. If any other student "takes out" the ebook of that title, the library automatically purchases it for its collection.
Of course, print still has an extremely important place in education and libraries — Florida Polytechnic University is rather unique in that an all-digital library makes sense for its curriculum. The new university is entirely focused on STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math degrees. Those programs have a much stronger focus on new material that's widely available digitally than a literature course, for instance. That doesn't mean there aren't any paper books available, however. The university has book lending programs with nearby university systems, and it has a collection of roughly 7,000 books it obtained from another recently-closed polytechnic university — though administrators still have to figure out what to do with the paper books.