Emergent trends in digital media are forcing academic libraries to change the way they provide book content to their patrons, according to an article on Inside Higher Education.

Belk Library has responded to these trends by introducing new technology and focusing more on patron-initiated acquisition, which means the library relies on its patrons to tell it what to buy. This is especially important at a time when the library's annual budget, which is a little more than $1,000,000, is not growing, according to Kate Hickey, dean of the library.

As time goes on, we won't be able to afford to buy things that we think somebody will use or we hope that somebody will use," Hickey said. "Most of the books that we buy now are requested directly by faculty or librarians."

But students don't have to worry about the library not having a book they need. The library will either buy or borrow any book that a student or faculty requests, making the decision as to how to get it based on the specifics of the book.

"To buy [a book] is not just the cost of the book, but also of the shelf space," Hickey said. "But borrowing involves unpacking it and shipping costs. It's cheaper to buy a relatively inexpensive book than it is to ship it back and forth. But if it's a $200 book for a senior thesis, we would probably borrow that."

The library responds to students' needs in more ways than just finding them a book.

Freshmen students have a specific librarian assigned to them, which is helpful for when they have questions or need assistance, according to Sundeep Mahendra, the evening librarian.

The library also offers both a texting service and an Instant Messaging service for students who have questions but are not in the building.

"We try to reach out a lot more," Mahendra said. "We're always interested to hear what students want and what kind of services they want, and that's why we are trying things like the texting, and offering more resources in the library. We're interested to hear what's most helpful."

To keep up with the increasingly digitized world, the library invested in a fleet of six Kindles that students, faculty and staff can check out for two weeks. Although there are waiting lists for the Kindles, Hickey isn't rushing to buy more just yet.

"We used to check out laptops by the dozens every night, but there's not a demand for that because most students have theirs and bring them with them," she said. "That may happen with the Kindle. People try them, if they like them then they'll spend the money buy one. And we may find a couple years from now no one interested in ours."

Even though more people are reading digitized books, Hickey is confident that print books will continue to exist.

"I don't think the print book is going to disappear," she said. "There's a lot of things that aren't digitized yet, and a lot of people who still grew up on the print format want to hold a book and turn the pages. Twenty years from now it will be different. I'm just not sure in what way."

Hickey is also confident that libraries that are resourceful and receptive will have no problem surviving.

"I've been listening to the death of the library for 40 years but libraries that are responsive to their users are busy," she said.