Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The dystopian future is now!

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of the New England prep school and mastermind of the bookless library claims, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.’’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?


Eric Forcier said...

"Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine."

...So will the librarians be serving coffee?

--> LIS 550 "Barista Training- Methodology and Techniques"

Carla said...

Says my friend from Comp Sci:

"As much as I love the internet, that is really, really stupid."

FLIF said...

really, really, really stupid!