New England Prep School Gets Rid of Books

digital libraryAt the prestigious prep school, Cushing Academy, just about 90 miles from Boston, the library is getting a complete makeover. The once traditional library at the 144-year-old school has gotten rid of its collection of 20,000 books in order to make room for a new digital library, according to The Boston Globe.

Book stacks are being replaced with flat-screen TVs, laptop study cubes, and electronic reading devices. And you can’t have a digital learning center without coffee, right? So Cushing Academy is also shelling over $50,000 for a cafe that includes a $12,000 cappuccino and espresso machine.

“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Talk about keeping up with the times.

But some parents, academicians and administrators aren’t so sold on Tracy’s vision. According to the Boston Globe, critics are concerned that the new digital learning center will condone surfing the Internet, chatting over email and social media sites like Facebook and detract away from the focused concentration of studying with books, notebooks and class notes.

In response, Tracy is quick to point out to any naysayers that Cushing’s virtual library will provide students with access to millions of books rather than a few thousand like traditional libraries.

As of the published date of this article, Cushing Academy is the first academic institution to go bookless. But given the massive popularity, efficiency and functionality of the media age, will this new digital library trail-blaze the way for additional virtual learning centers in which the sensual feel and smell of books and the hollowed silence of stacks and desks are replaced with the drone of computers, the pings of email alerts and the smell of coffee beans?

Time will tell.

One Response to “New England Prep School Gets Rid of Books”

  1. Eamonn says:

    Congratulations to Cushing Academy and its forward thinking head of school. Education, and educational thinking, is mired in old-world technology and trying to use it to teach kids living a very 21st century life. The skills of the modern and emerging 21st century will not be found solely in the library. To this end, Mr. Tracy has rightly not eliminated books from the school, simply an institution, in the library, whose effectiveness as a learning tool is waning as teachers wrestle with how best to prepare students for the challenges they will face. Perhaps the real outrage should be directed at those educators who do not view the latter idea as their primary goal, or who are so out of touch with what those challenges are that they are completely unaware that they are not serving the needs of their students.

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