Friday, September 4, 2009

A library without books? Sniff, sniff

I am deeply distressed over an article in today's Boston Globe. It seems Cushing Academy, a prep school here in Massachusetts, has opened this year without a library. The article actually is called Welcome to the Library. Say Goodbye to the Books indicating that the library has gone digital. But according to the article, more than books were lost. "Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine." What exactly does the administration think happens at a reference desk? Regular readers of my blog know that I value coffee, almost as much as books, and libraries, but can a cappuccino machine tell you how to find the full-text of an article online, explain how to navigate a web-page, and teach you how to explore the depths of the internet, or unjam the printer for that matter?

The article goes on to say that students weren't using the books "School officials said when they checked library records one day last spring only 48 books had been checked out, and 30 of those were children’s books." The wording here is sufficiently vague so that I cannot tell whether 48 books were checked out on that specfic day; or, if 48 books happened to be checked out on the day in question; or if 48 books had been checked out the entire year. In any case, perhaps the reason students weren't checking out books is because they haven't been encouraged to?

"When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus.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 vision makes me wonder if Tracy has seen the tongue-in-cheek YouTube video Introducing the Book.

I was encouraged, however, by this article from the New York Times, which clearly demonstates a love of reading among New York City subway riders.

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