Friday, February 12, 2010

New York Times "Room for Debate": Do School Libraries Need Books?

Link to February 10 New York Times article.

A sampling of opinion.

James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing Academy, a boarding and day school in Massachusetts for grades 9 to 12.

A small collection of printed books no longer supports the type of research required by a 21st century curriculum. We wanted to create a library that reflected the reality of how students do research and fostered what they do, one that went beyond stacks and stacks of underutilized books.

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum, associate professor of English at the University of Maryland and director of the campus honors program in Digital Cultures and Creativity.

Books and libraries are working (or living) models of knowledge formation. We need them for the same reason we need models of atoms and airplanes. They are hands-on. They are immersive. Holding a book in our hands, we orient ourselves within a larger system.

Liz Gray, library director at Dana Hall School, a girls’ school in Wellesley, Mass., and president of the board of the Association of Independent School Librarians.

My other responsibility as a school librarian is to encourage reading, which all the research shows is crucial to student success. Focused, engaged reading occurs with printed books, and far less with online material.

Nicholas Carr, author of “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google.”

But if we care about the depth of our intellectual and cultural lives, we’ll see that emptying our libraries of books is not an example of progress. It’s an example of regress.

William Powers, author of the forthcoming “Hamlet’s BlackBerry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age.”

This is indeed the start of a new era. Digital devices are transforming how we live in all kinds of thrilling ways, and we’ve only begun to explore their potential. But embracing these new tools doesn’t require us to simultaneously throw out all the old ones, particularly those that continue to serve useful purposes. Who says it has to be an either-or decision?

Now, on to the next question. Do school libraries need professional trained staff?

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