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“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus.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.
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):