Sunday, September 6, 2009

The end is at hand.

No, I'm not talking about 2012 or Armageddon. Though for someone like me, what happened at Cushing Academy is close.

The private school in Ashburnham, MA has decided that the future is completely and utterly digital, with no room whatsoever for books. Literally. They've recently gotten rid of their 20,000+ collection of books, to make way for what they believe is the future.

I'm sorry, but don't you think that's a little extreme?

David Abel, the Boston Globe journalist who wrote the article, says that Cushing is replacing the traditional library with a $500,000 "learning center" where students will be inundated with digital technology, like the $42,000 they'll be spending on flat-screen TVs that will show Internet data, $20,000 on little study spaces where students can use their laptops, and $10,000 on digital readers (think Amazon's Kindle). Oh, and did I forget to mention the $50,000 coffee center, complete with a $12,000 espresso machine, that will be replacing the reference desk?

So okay. I get it. The future is now, blah blah blah. But really. I hope this does not become a trend because people start to think books are "out of date" or whatever. I don't know how many of you have tried to read books on a computer screen before, but you can only stare at backlit text on a white background for so long before you feel your eyes and your brain start to fry. After all, books on e-readers aren't free (ka-ching!), and not all of them are available. What about rarer texts? Books that aren't available on Kindle or whatever Sony e-reader they're getting? Students will have to use e-books via computer, and that bites.

Plus, I'm sure one or two of those digital readers will have an "accident" with the absolutely-necessary lattes the reference desk-cum-coffee shop will be dispensing. In a room full of electronics. At a high school. SMART.

I don't see why the school couldn't have built on their library's digital resources while still keeping the books around. They claimed they didn't have room for them (in the library). So they gave them all away. It's not like they made money off of getting rid of the books; they already had that money, probably from the ridiculous tuition they charge the families of their students. So what was the point? They really didn't want to think of some way to compromise? That's just sad.

Abel also makes another good point: How many teens do you know who have spent any period of time online without checking their e-mail, IMing, or at least wasting time on some other site? I don't know about you, but that seems pretty much impossible. If they're going to be spending hours reading books via the Internet, they're going to be talking to their buddies and reading or surfing Facebook. End of story.

Perhaps most disturbing to me is that the students didn't seem to care at all. I know that when I was in high school, I took out books all the time. I love to browse the stacks in libraries and bookstores, and I feel really sorry for any future generations (or my own) who won't have that chance. By taking away books you're denying a great resource to any kid who wants to use it--after all, not every student hates to read.

If this turns into some sort of trend, I'm not sure where it will lead us. Yeah, digital media is the future and all that, but books have been around since the 1400s. The printed word has been around for thousands of years. With the development of digital media, what will happen to it? What will happen when literature can be wiped out of a personal library with the click of a mouse?

1 comment:

Lori said...

This is appalling! I really fear for the future. I honestly cannot say that technology, outside of medicine (and even the artificiality of the way people are being kept alive is pushing it), has done anything positive for humanity. We have devolved into, for the most part, obese, whiny-assed people who can't seem to entertain themselves.