Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Library Without Books???

On September 4, the Boston Globe printed a story about Cushing Academy, a prep school in New England just outside of Boston. School officials decided that a traditional library is outdated and no longer necessary. They will be getting rid of all of their books. All of them except extremely valuable books and a few hundred children's books will be given away or donated. Instead, the library will be a learning center with flat-screen TV's, study desks, a coffee shop, and 18 electronic reading devises loaded with reading material. If the electronic readers aren't available when a student needs them, assigned texts will be available via computer. Here's a link to the full story: Boston Globe

Personally, I can't imagine a library without books. I love looking at the covers and thumbing through the pages. I love wandering in the stacks. I think that there are benefits that come with turning the pages of a book that you can't get on a Kindle. Books can be dropped, thrown in a backpack, used in the sand and in the sun. They can wait for me in the car and even survive splashes from the bath. They can be stored for long periods of time without losing function. And I believe there is a tactile and often emotional benefit that comes with curling up on the couch under my favorite blanket with a cup of coffee and a good book that just can't be replicated with an electronic device. I also worry about the kinds of information that will be lost as the technology gets outdated. Remember floppy discs? What happens when the newest, greatest electronic reading devise comes out. Will all of the books released on today's technology be able to be updated to the newest format? Or will they be lost like the information on my floppy discs?

I think what the Cushing Academy is doing is a big scary step. Maybe I'm old-fashioned. Maybe I am technophobic. Maybe I'm afraid of what will happen to all of the wonderful stories and important pieces of information if it is only available electronically where people can manipulate the words or lose them all together. Whatever the reason, this story makes me sad. I hope that other libraries will find ways to blend the best of technology with print materials. I hope that books never go out of style.

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