Death of a Library

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I visited my campus library today to chat with our librarian about a video set I use in my classes. While visiting, she and I discussed our shock at what the Cushing School is doing. Note, the Cushing school is very old, very elite, and to an extent … very traditional school. They have a great faculty, elite students, a large endowment, a massive library, and excellent facilities. However, the Cushing school has decided to get rid of the volumes of books that makes up its collection in favor of an “all” electronic system. I am one who favors books. Having one in my hand adds a sense of intellectual fervor and energy to my studies. Furthermore, I am one that likes to annotate when reading. According to the article (click to see):
Cushing library goes bookless

Cushing Academy has all the hallmarks of a New England prep school, with one exception.

This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academy’s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a “learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

12 thoughts on “Death of a Library

  1. /shudder

    I dig tech, but it has a long way to go to catch up to the ergonomics and the warmth of reading a book. Libraries are great! Books AND computers = win.

    Besides, where would Buffy and Giles train for vampire killing?

  2. We KNEW something like this would happen at SOME point, right?

    That doesn’t make it any less scary, though.

    I sent an email to my public library today, asking if they could do a presentation on research techniques and resources for my high school students (I’m teaching at a charter school, and we don’t actually HAVE a library. That’s my next project…). I’m fully expecting them to tell me that they don’t do that, and I’m not sure how I’m going to compensate…

  3. This is sad. I enjoy technology, probably more than most, but getting rid of books is just plain silly. Nothing compares to reading a book.

  4. The news about dismantling Cushing’s library has been received with much dismay by librarians. Some people just don’t get it – after all we can find everything we need on the internet, right? Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet, social networking, etc., but most serious researchers know that books can be invaluable resources. Kindles are great and have their place, but what child will experience the same joy of reading Make Way for Ducklings on a Kindle?

    One of my joys as a librarian is connecting students and teachers with the right material they need at the right time, no matter the format. Librarians are no longer just keepers of books, but information specialists and managers who assist users in this age of information overload. It’s an exciting and challenging time to be an Information Specialist!

    Statistics show that use of public libraries has increased dramatically due to the downturn in our economy. Been to a public library lately? It’s a happening place, full of activities from gaming, coffee bars, computer instruction, job counseling,
    etc. and books. Many school and university libraries have been transformed into “Learning Commons” where people gather to collaborate, create, plan and research. That’s how I envision our library.

    Better yet, there’s an article in the Sept. 18, 2009 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education on Goucher College’s new library, now called The Anthenaeum. They have an art gallery, restaurant, exercise equipment, an open forum space, campus radio station, commuter lounge, AND “all the usual trappings of a traditional library” including stacks of books. According to university president, Sanford J. Unger, “the name was chosen to reflect the various activities on the anthenaeum of classical times and it was a central gathering point where people came for a variety of purposes – serious, frivolous, cultural, artistic, and social.” Sounds like an exciting place to pursue knowledge! Too bad the administrators at Cushing didn’t have a similar vision for their school.
    Here’s a link with pictures of Goucher’s building:

  5. Pingback: Post 2.1 – Afterthoughts: The Medium IS The Message « NE1 Atoll

  6. Pingback: The death of the book? - film315

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