School prepares for book-free library

How many books would you expect to see in a New England prep school library? Until recently, the correct answer in the case of Cushing Academy was 20,000. But soon the answer will be zero.

The school has decided to replace its stock of physical books (pictured) with a collection of internet-enabled screens and electronic reading devices. According to the Boston Globe, the academy’s headmaster says “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

It appears the days of checking out a book could be over for most students as the project will only involve buying 18 Amazon Kindles and Sony Readers for use beyond the library walls. The main purpose of the library (or learning center as it may be retitled) will be as a quiet place for working on laptops.

The academy says the $500,000 revamp will mean replacing 20,000 books with access to “millions of titles”. And it insists the idea of students taking books away from the library is already outdated. It says that on average only 48 books are checked out at any time, 30 of them children’s titles.

It does have to be said that the academy isn’t helping its case by announcing that while it’s spending only $10,000 on the electronic readers, it’s shelling out $12,000 on a cappuccino machine where the reference desk used to be. While many college students may find caffeine as valuable a study aid as the printed page, that’s an odd message to send to schoolchildren.

For a project involving so much language, it’s a shame staff have chosen to use some particularly ugly phrases to describe the changes. The library will apparently become a “center for collaboration, communication, and experiential learning” full of “community-building areas.”

And those flat-screens with access to the internet (and possibly other electronic databases)?

Why, naturally they are “Portals of Civilization.”

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14 Responses to School prepares for book-free library

  1. As much as I like technology, and as much as I love the idea (and the reality) of having access to millions of books on one device (something that I admit has helped me greatly in my own research), but frankly, I think this is an abominable idea.

    I can't explain exactly why, but it has always seemed to me that there is more to a book than just paper, ink and a cover. It just feels better, more right, if you will, to be holding the book while you read it.

    The entire process of finding a book, be it at a library, a bookstore, or my house, is a pleasure in and of itself, a great pleasure that would be lost for the students should they loose that connection of the library and to books, which, based on the consequences of similar actions in the past, in the name of “ease of use” and being “up to date,” the students will loose any meaningful connection beyond the pragmatic with the objects of the revision. As C. S. Lewis said, “The up to date is soon dated.”

    I know from my own past and current experience that schools seem to be doing everything possible to rob students of their connection to the past and to reality outside the confines of the campus; this is one more way of doing that, but in a manner which will have a much greater and more profound effect upon the souls of the students than any other action to which I have been witness.

    Should the schools digitise and publicise the contents of their libraries? Certainly! The world can only benefit from the wide and easily accessible availability of knowledge, and I am extremely grateful to those who have already done so via the Internet Archive, as this has enabled me to use numerous out of print books for my liturgical research. But should schools replace their libraries with these digital collection? Absolutely not!

  2. As much as I like technology, and as much as I love the idea (and the reality) of having access to millions of books on one device (something that I admit has helped me greatly in my own research), but frankly, I think this is an abominable idea.

    I can’t explain exactly why, but it has always seemed to me that there is more to a book than just paper, ink and a cover. It just feels better, more right, if you will, to be holding the book while you read it.

    The entire process of finding a book, be it at a library, a bookstore, or my house, is a pleasure in and of itself, a great pleasure that would be lost for the students should they loose that connection of the library and to books, which, based on the consequences of similar actions in the past, in the name of “ease of use” and being “up to date,” the students will loose any meaningful connection beyond the pragmatic with the objects of the revision. As C. S. Lewis said, “The up to date is soon dated.”

    I know from my own past and current experience that schools seem to be doing everything possible to rob students of their connection to the past and to reality outside the confines of the campus; this is one more way of doing that, but in a manner which will have a much greater and more profound effect upon the souls of the students than any other action to which I have been witness.

    Should the schools digitise and publicise the contents of their libraries? Certainly! The world can only benefit from the wide and easily accessible availability of knowledge, and I am extremely grateful to those who have already done so via the Internet Archive, as this has enabled me to use numerous out of print books for my liturgical research. But should schools replace their libraries with these digital collection? Absolutely not!

  3. This is horrible. Technology's great yeah, but I don't think e-books can ever replace books. I can never seem to read a book through a screen. Also; it eliminates taking out books, which is one of the main purposes of a library. Projects may become harder for the students as a result. It's just not a good idea.

  4. This is horrible. Technology’s great yeah, but I don’t think e-books can ever replace books. I can never seem to read a book through a screen. Also; it eliminates taking out books, which is one of the main purposes of a library. Projects may become harder for the students as a result. It’s just not a good idea.

  5. I read electronic books here and there but I still love real books made of dead trees so much that this news just horrifies me :-( I hope this never happens at New Zealand schools close enough for me to go yell at people…

  6. I read electronic books here and there but I still love real books made of dead trees so much that this news just horrifies me :-( I hope this never happens at New Zealand schools close enough for me to go yell at people…

  7. Hope they don't have any students with vision disabilities – they'll have a hell of a time with only Kindles – also WTF are they thinking only using a sole source vendor – if they went with Sony they could at least get a subscription to OverDrive for their students & use pdfs easily – dumbass administrators.

  8. Hope they don’t have any students with vision disabilities – they’ll have a hell of a time with only Kindles – also WTF are they thinking only using a sole source vendor – if they went with Sony they could at least get a subscription to OverDrive for their students & use pdfs easily – dumbass administrators.

  9. Everyone else had valid points, but you seem to be spewing for no purpose.

    1) Electronic readers are actually much better for people with vision disabilities. You can resize the text, change the contrast and even have it read out to you. For people with good enough vision, this could never replace a book (as others have pointed out above), but for people with disabilities, this is a godsend as it finally allows them more access than a book where you can't change the size/contrast/audio properties.

    2) They DID get some Sony Readers. Re-read the article.

    I'm not agreeing with them replacing the library, here, guys. I was just pointing out the inaccuracies within Jane's comment. I totally agree with Rd. Kevin, lightw and Kristie on the main issue.

  10. Everyone else had valid points, but you seem to be spewing for no purpose.

    1) Electronic readers are actually much better for people with vision disabilities. You can resize the text, change the contrast and even have it read out to you. For people with good enough vision, this could never replace a book (as others have pointed out above), but for people with disabilities, this is a godsend as it finally allows them more access than a book where you can’t change the size/contrast/audio properties.

    2) They DID get some Sony Readers. Re-read the article.

    I’m not agreeing with them replacing the library, here, guys. I was just pointing out the inaccuracies within Jane’s comment. I totally agree with Rd. Kevin, lightw and Kristie on the main issue.

  11. The first time there's a power outage, no one gets their homework done.

    No one will read the entirety of 'War and Peace' or 'Tale of Two Cities' on a Kindle. Numerous studies have been done, and people are not comfortable doing lengthy reading on an electronic reader. Some books cannot or will not be converted to electronic form any time soon, as that effort will be mired in copyright or contract negotiations, or both, for some time. I don't (yet) know anyone who relishes cuddling up with a hot cocoa and a Kindle on a rainy day. As much a 'gadget nut' as I may be, and I'm certainly not a Luddite, sometimes 'low tech' is still a better answer. Once again, the administrators are like ADD-infected kittens, moving from one 'shiny thing' to another, with little regard for the human element. The emperor just bought a Kindle for his new suit.

  12. The first time there’s a power outage, no one gets their homework done.

    No one will read the entirety of ‘War and Peace’ or ‘Tale of Two Cities’ on a Kindle. Numerous studies have been done, and people are not comfortable doing lengthy reading on an electronic reader. Some books cannot or will not be converted to electronic form any time soon, as that effort will be mired in copyright or contract negotiations, or both, for some time. I don’t (yet) know anyone who relishes cuddling up with a hot cocoa and a Kindle on a rainy day. As much a ‘gadget nut’ as I may be, and I’m certainly not a Luddite, sometimes ‘low tech’ is still a better answer. Once again, the administrators are like ADD-infected kittens, moving from one ‘shiny thing’ to another, with little regard for the human element. The emperor just bought a Kindle for his new suit.

  13. I like the smell and feel of books, especially old ones. As mentioned above, I use technology and move through the advances of it (started out with optical mark sense cards and now on Blackberry), but books are easier for me to get lost in.

    Personally, I can't stand to read anything of length on any type of electronic screen.

  14. I like the smell and feel of books, especially old ones. As mentioned above, I use technology and move through the advances of it (started out with optical mark sense cards and now on Blackberry), but books are easier for me to get lost in.

    Personally, I can’t stand to read anything of length on any type of electronic screen.

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