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Students speak out about one university's plans to have a digital-only library

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What's a library like without books? My kid's school library removed most of the books, creating a space to use in other ways. And apparently, the university system in Vermont wanted this, too. They proposed taking library books off the shelves of at least three campus libraries and offering digital copies instead. That would save money, but...

ROSIE PHELAN: I was shocked. I was really taken aback when I heard that that was happening.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Rosie Phelan is an English major who works in the library at Castleton University. That's one of three colleges merging to create a new Vermont State University.

PHELAN: You go to a college and you expect to have these resources, and the next thing you know, they're just taken away.

INSKEEP: Phelan insists students still use physical books.

PHELAN: Every morning, I go around the library and we have different carts everywhere. And some days, I'll be picking up stacks of books that have been used within the library. I mean, most of the time, just because people aren't taking the books back doesn't mean they're not using them.

FADEL: Now, the university system said a request for physical materials and books plummeted in recent years.

INSKEEP: But now that faculty and students have spoken up for physical books, administrators refined their plans. Some paper books will remain. Biology professor Preston Garcia says that still falls short.

PRESTON GARCIA: Any publisher will tell you that every single printed copy of any book is not digitally available right now. We're just not at that point in society. So, yeah, it is a form of censorship.

FADEL: And some students say removing physical books reduces accessibility. Allison Fiske is a nursing student who says ADHD makes it harder for her to read digital copies.

ALLISON FISKE: I'll lose my place or get bored really easily 'cause it's just not the same as having a physical book there.

INSKEEP: There is something about a physical book. The university system has said it plans to keep a collection of what it calls popular casual reading books and some children's books with paper pages.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARTY'S "LAST KISS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.