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September 6, 2009

Sign of the apocalypse: a book-less library

empty%20shelves.jpgCushing Academy in Massachusetts is taking an unusual approach to reading: eliminating the printed word from its library. Administrators are getting rid of more than 20,000 volumes to make way for a "learning center" that includes flat-screen TVs to project data from the Internet and 18 e-book readers, according to The Boston Globe. (Where the reference desk was, the school is building a coffee shop with a $12,000 cappuccino machine).

 “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ headmaster James Tracy told the Globe. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451'. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’

Sad that these preppies will never have the satisfaction of curling up with a well-worn paperback of "The Catcher in the Rye" (is there an inherent value in reading a book as Holden Caulfield would have?) or enjoying the creative heft of Shakespeare's complete works.

I realize that electronic textbooks and Internet research are rapidly changing the way our children learn, but it strikes me as too soon to abandon printed books. Then again, maybe we should be looking into ways to reuse the Enoch Pratt Free Library -- the center court would make one heckuva swimming pool.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)


I love technology and am looking into getting a Kindle, myself. However, there is nothing like cracking open a book and turning page after page without having to worry about internet access or battery life.

Sad, because this school is limiting choice for students. Education should be about opening up choices, not closing them off. I'm surprised that the parents are allowing the headmaster's views on technology to completely structure the way their children learn about the world.

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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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