More Words on the Library Debate

by NYC Firm Schools on February 14, 2010

Back in the fall of last year, we reported on the Cushing Academy, the first school to officially changeover its library to all digital. The transformation of this school’s library, complete with big screen TV’s and a $12,000 coffee maker, began to stir up more and controversy not because if its singular decision but because of the possible beginning or end that it signifies.

The New York Times ran an Opinion piece on Cushing Academy and invited the headmaster, James Tracy, as well as various authors and librarians and other relevant to the debate to weigh in on the written and digitized word.

The Cushing Academy Headmaster of course reinforced his ideas on the future and a digitized library, with smart commentary on the fact that a library must reflect the learning ways of the people it serves.

Cushing Academy Headmaster James Tracy
small collection of printed books no longer supports the type of research required by a
21st century curriculum. We wanted to create a library that reflected the reality of how students do research and fostered what they do, one that went beyond stacks and stacks of underutilized books.

Others brought up very real arguments of the tactile and personal nature of a physical book and wonder if it can ever really be replaced.

Author Nicolas Carr
The pages of a book shield us from the distractions that bombard us during most of our waking hours. As an informational medium, the book focuses our attention, encouraging the kind of immersion in a story or an argument that promotes deep comprehension and deep learning.

Author William Powers
embracing these new tools doesn’t require us to simultaneously throw out all the old ones, particularly those that continue to serve useful purposes. Who says it has to be an either-or decision?

The idea that books are outdated is based on a common misconception: the belief that new technologies automatically render existing ones obsolete, as the automobile did with the buggy whip. However, this isn’t always the case. Old technologies often handily survive the introduction of new ones, and sometimes become useful in entirely new ways.

The debate continues on the increased digitization of our libraries, but most agree at this point that an evolution in our libraries is happening, and how we work with it and mould it to our own needs and purposes will be the mark of its success.

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