Making room for cappuccino, and fish too.

While it won’t be front-page news for anyone reading this blog, there was a front-page story in Tuesday’s San Francisco Daily Journal (password needed) about how law firms are reducing the size of their libraries and using the spaces that once held books for people purposes instead.  The story, “Making Space for Collaboration – Libraries, Formerly the Hub of Firm Intellectual Life, Have Been Downsized,” by Susan McRae, looks at how a few local law firms have shifted their focus from books to cappuccino.

. . . Seizing the void [of little-used libraries] as an opportunity, firm administrators began turning unused library space into open meeting rooms, lounges and cappuccino bars, confining the far smaller collections to a few shelves . . .

The story takes a close look at Durie Tangri’s beautiful new offices and features photographs of a modern “common space” and also the firm’s pool table.  The story notes that

Firm lawyers were even willing to make individuall offices smaller to accommodate the collaborative dynamic.  Their print library was confined to one volume of treatises houses in a 3-by-6 foot shelf.

Another firm, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan

. . . enthusiastically incorporated a cappuccino bar and a couple of saltwater fish tanks into its library space.

At Davis Wright Tremaine its “traditional law library in Los Angeles, which was sitting unused, . . . ” has been turned into a lounge “with comfortable seating and a big-screen TV” while “the remaining law books are kept in a centralized area off to the side.”

At Greenberg Glusker the library space and collection have been reduced by two-thirds.

This pattern of greatly shrinking libraries and getting rid of the books is not limited to law firm libraries.  Here at Stanford University we also see this trend reflected in two newly opened libraries.

The first is the Engineering Library which is part of the newly build Terman Engineering Center.   According to a story in the Stanford Daily, “Terman library adapts to ‘bookless’ system,” the library has “cut down the number of books to about 20,000 from 80,000 and increased the number of e-books to around 40,000.”

And our business school just build an enormous new campus, with a brand new drop-dead gorgeous library.  There the on-site print collection was reduced from 400,000 volumes to approximately 30,000.




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