Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sometimes Fear is Good

I am sure you have all heard about the purging of the Cushing Academy Library. I have thought about it a lot lately - as we all should. I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I see it as a mistake - a huge mistake - but I can also see it happening at other schools. I finally realized today - I feel afraid. I am afraid for our field. I am threatened by the changes at a school I frankly hadn't heard of before they decided to dump their books in favor of an espresso machine.

Now more than ever we have to make our library programs even more relevant, important, and exciting to students and faculty. We have to make ourselves even more indispensable in our roles at our schools, and we must learn to toot our own horns. Make sure others (adminsitration) know about your great books, lessons, clubs, extra-curricular events, and overall contributions to the intellectual life of the school. The death of the Cushing Academy library has only invigorated me to do my best this year, to take more risks, be visible, and solidify my role and the library's role in student life.
How has it inspired you?


  1. Umm...the Cushing library isn't dead, it is very much alive. Instead of 20,000 books, it will have millions when the overhaul is complete. Book lovers should celebrate!Congratulations to Jim Tracy for his pioneering vision.

  2. In the traditional sense, the library will be gone, according to the news. It won't be called a library, and the "books" will be only digital. I am not sure the technology is quite up for that challenge. I think the students, although learning some valuable other sources, will miss out on other types of scholarship. I think it is too soon - only time will tell, I suppose! Will the students use the public library more? Perhaps the local public library should get ready..

  3. I think your ambition is admirable, but any librarian who fails to embrace the digital age will be out of a job in the not so distant future. Indeed, time will tell, but information technology is rapidly changing, and those who cling to print media will be left in the dust. A complete shift to digital was bound to happen sooner or later. Book lovers who fear what Cushing is doing should, actually, celebrate that a man of James Tracy's ability - a true book lover himself - is leading the way. Check out the man's position and creds. at his school's website:

  4. I am not saying no to the digital age - in fact I work with technology. I just think abandoning the books is a bad idea. Kindles, ebooks, databases - all great - I teach about a lot of tech at my school -but getting rid of all the books is too much too soon. I agree that libraians have to move to digital resources - I don't know of any librarians in fact who disagree with that. I just think there is a balance of different types of media and that traditional books will still be around and useful for some time to come.

  5. I agree with you, Elisabeth. As a librarian at a one to one laptop school, we are very tech heavy. That being said, tech (including laptops, databases, smartboards, etc.) are all educational tools. To rely solely on one type of tool may be a mistake. It takes all kinds of information in all types of formats to develop true research skills and adequate scholarship. I am a big fan of a dynamic library collection (no dusty books!) and do a lot of weeding and buying to keep the library breathing. Cutting out all books seems like a misguided move.

    Also, many of my "digital native" students love the feel of a book and often prefer the paper version of encyclopedias and books even when we have the online version available.

    I wonder, too, if there are any studies about information retention when reading on a screen versus reading on paper or E ink.

  6. Sarah - good points! I also have students who prefer doing research with monographs in print form. Sometimes that is where the deeper research is. We tailor our collection to fit the curriculum, so many of the books are used. I think using the books is an important part of their college prep, actually. Students who become university scholars, especially in particular disciplines, will be returning to books again and again.
    (and what about graphic novels!? how do they look on a Kindle?)