Cushing Academy, located about 90 minutes outside of Boston, has taken a step that's caused quite the uproar in the library blogosphere: they've discarded all books from their library collection. James Tracy, headmaster of the New England prep school and mastermind of the bookless library claims, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.’’
The death of the book has been loudly proclaimed from all corners for some time now, but this particular initiative seems like a disturbing harbinger of things to come. The $12,000 cappuccino machine, in particular, strikes us as a giant middle finger to less financially secure students who traditionally have relied on print collections:
"Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a “learning center,’’ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine."
And eighteen e-readers to satisfy the reading needs of the entire school? The ALA's Keith Michael Fiels remarks,
“Unless every student has a Kindle and an unlimited budget, I don’t see how that need is going to be met,’’ Fiels said. “Books are not a waste of space, and they won’t be until a digital book can tolerate as much sand, survive a coffee spill, and have unlimited power. When that happens, there will be next to no difference between that and a book.’’
Of course, if there's anywhere this experiment may have a chance of succeeding, it's an upscale prep school - it's when this type of thinking percolates into the public library system that we truly have some enormous issues on our plate. Thoughts?