Sunday, September 27, 2009

From The Boston Globe

School Library Does Away With Books
by Tom Henderson Sep 17th 2009 5:12AM

Something you won't see anymore at a New England prep school: library books.

The last thing a school library needs these days is books, the headmaster of a New England prep school told the Boston Globe.

What it really needs is a good cappuccino machine.

James Tracy, headmaster of the Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Conn., told the Globe that ink on paper is so 20th century. So his school library is doing away with it -- and its 20,000 books.

"When I look at books, I see an outdated technology like scrolls before books,' Tracy told the (pardon the expression) paper.

He swears this isn't a school production of "Fahrenheit 451," Ray Bradbury's cautionary tale about books being burned in an anti-intellectual hysteria.

"We're not discouraging students from reading," he told the paper. "We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology."

Administrators at the 144-year-old prep school 90 minutes west of Boston have already given away many of the library's previous collection of classics, poetry and reference material. They are choosing instead to spend $500,000 on a digital "learning center" that will include flat-screen TVs for cruising the Internet as well as cubbies designed for laptops and a coffee shop with a $12,000 cappuccino machine.

The TV sets alone will cost $42,000, according to the Globe.

Liz Vezina, Cushing's school librarian for the past 17 years, told the Globe she will miss the books.

"I love books," she said. "I grew up with them, and there's something lost when they're virtual. There's a sensual side to them -- the smell, feel. The physicality of a book is something really special."

William Powers, the author of the upcoming book "Hamlet's Blackberry: Why Paper is Eternal," told the Globe the changes at Cushing are as depressing as they are radical.

"There are modes of learning and thinking that at the moment are only available from actual books," he told the paper.

"There is a kind deep-dive, meditative reading that's almost impossible to do on the screen. Without books, students are more likely to do the grazing or quick reading that screens enable rather than be by themselves with the author's ideas."