The shrinking of the library

Thanks to Daniel Peeler, here’s a very interesting story from The Boston Globe on a venerated prep school in New England that has apparently removed all the books from its library and plans to build a “learning center” in its place. Take a look:  Bookless library

Let’s continue to think about the ways in which paper can or cannot be replaced with pixels. Can we make concrete arguments — and quantify data — about the inherent utility of paper over digital media?

Or not?



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4 responses to “The shrinking of the library

  1. Jara

    I always tell my friends and family that I hope
    heaven is just a big library in the sky so I could spend enternity in an overstuffed chair surrounded by books, books, and more books!!! I was born in Brookline MA and know of Cushing Academy and like the librarian I want to cry. The young man’s comment that this is the future and it cannot be held back seems complacent to me. Are we no longer the masters of our destinies? I went to The Citadel library to get a book for my British Literature class last week. I checked out a copy of A Passage to India printed in 1924, the same year Forster wrote it. I wondered about the other people who have held that same book in their hands over the past 75 years.I thought about it being thrown in the dumpster. As I read the book, I couldn’t help wondering who might have read it in bed, on the couch, a park bench, or even read it to their children sitting on their laps. I believe the day will arrive when the generations to come will look up at their parents and say, “Grampa tell me again what books were like?” And Grampa will look down into their innocent eyes and tell them of a wonderous time,long,long ago.

  2. I agree with Jara on her point that you can’t replicate the physicality of books. It would truly be a sad day if I could never flip through the pages of my favorite books again. I’m also in agreement with the person from the American Library Association who said in the article that it would be nearly impossible to have an effective library run solely on Kindles or other eBook readers unless someone were to give you an unlimited budget (and everyone in the entire school a Kindle), because at $10 a download those books become awfully expensive. Could you imagine spending $50 to look through five books for a research paper? That’s a troubling prospect, even for a private school that has tuition as high as Cushing does.

    The statistics cited in the article are also troubling, because out of 450 students at Cushing Academy, 48 students checked out books in one day. That’s still 10% of the entire student body checking out books per day. Most secondary school libraries would kill to have that kind of circulation rate. And even though students don’t take the books home, they’re most likely being utilized by a much higher percentage of the student body than the statistics seem to indicate for reference or research.

    However, as much as I don’t like the idea of an ALL-digital library, I do think that the computer has real value for accessing huge amounts of information at an unprecedented speed. Has anyone ever tried to find journal articles for a paper by hand without having a clue to go on? It is truly maddening. A simple 2-second search on any journal database online will yield literally hundreds of matches (which can be either a blessing or a curse, depending on your mood), and that makes research and scholarship much more agile than it used to be.

  3. maggie mcmenamin

    our classroom discussions in the past few weeks have really gotten me to at least begin to rethink the prospects of a digital world over paper. considering that our planet is being deforested at rapid rates and the environment is a priority issue- it stands to reason that we HAVE to change our habits- is it not our reponsibity to future generations? we have the technology- and it will improve again and again in our life time- yes I love books and it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks when it comes to reading paper over pixels- but I can change with the times-
    i’m going to bed now- so I can read my BOOK for class tomorrow

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