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NYPL Deems Print Encyclopedias 'Relevant' in Digital Age

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A panoramic view of the main branch of the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library. A panoramic view of the main branch of the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public Library. (David Iliff/Wikipedia Commons)

As reference materials continue to move online, the New York Public Library will continue to keep print versions of the World Book Encyclopedia in all its 87 branch libraries, which are found in Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island.

"We definitely think it's relevant for certain groups of users," said Denise Hibay, NYPL's head of collection development.

After 244 years, Encyclopaedia Britannica announced last week that it will go all digital. Its 2010 edition will be the last print edition. Other encyclopedias have done the same, leaving World Book as one of the last to remain on paper, according to Hibay. But while the industry shifts focus from bookshelves to the annals of the internet, the New York Public Library is not ready to leave behind patrons who do not or cannot use the web.

"A group of students come into a branch after school. There are only so many computer terminals in a branch, so we want this to be available for them, as a backup," Hibay said. "And some people still prefer the print volume."

Some recent immigrants, low-income New Yorkers and elderly patrons also benefit from having the World Book in print, Hibay said.

For the internet-savvy, though, the New York Public Library also offers the World Book and Grolier's Encyclopedia online to anyone with a library card.

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