The Globally Shrinking Law Library

Two items in today’s papers show that there appears to be a global trend towards smaller libraries, with the justification being that it’s all available online anyway.
In Bangor Maine, users will be moved out of the main library room into three small upper rooms, as the librarians pack up 750 boxes of the collection. We can say that it’s all on the online services, but losing 15,000 books has to have an impact.
And on the other side of the world, a story from the SMH as profs at the UNSW discovered the library‘s collection of international law journals pitched into a skip for recycling. They scrapped 350 journals.

Staff managed to salvage about 35 sets to donate to educational institutions in Laos.

It is understood librarians were keen to donate or sell the rest of the journals but were advised by university administrators not to waste their time.

The Federal Opposition’s education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, said the destruction of the journals was “vandalism”.

“It’s not hard to find a good home for books. Store them, sell them or give them away but they should never have been dumped.”


  1. I hope the decreasing library size refers only to the physical printed collection of the library? As a reference librarian, I believe librarians’ value is enhanced in an information rich age. Librarians are needed more than ever to help patrons mining the best information sources among thousands! Plus, the physical libraries, in most educational institutions, have functions more than a storage room for printed books. Students socialize, study, relax, and do much more in the libraries! Information plays a key role today, and I believe libraries (no matter physical or virtual) should play the same important role in our society.

  2. I agree Sharon, and I wish these articles would label it digitization rather than ‘shrinking’ or ‘getting smaller’. The headlines tend to get twisted, and people believe that Library services have been reduced, that collections are smaller, or worse, that we’re overstaffed.

    You’re correct Simon, 15k books is a big number. Likely a substantial amount of that was case law, but still. Hopefully the culling process was well thought out.

    On a related note, BYU is composting books. It’s pretty sad when the ‘free for the cost of shipping’ emails go unanswered, and I don’t see things getting any better in the future.