Eyeing the times, these libraries chuck the books

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It seems the time has come for the tomes to go.

Say hello to the book-less library.

A Catholic prep school in suburban Minneapolis cleared almost all its physical books out of its library. Students at Benile-St. Margaret’s now sit at tables and chairs and work at their laptops in the place where stacks of shelves used to hold 5,000 books.

The move by the school of 1,200 students has generated a flurry of media interest, with articles here, here, and here.

According to School Library Journal, the school’s Moore Library remains a vital educational space. Students still do research, investigate questions, and learn.

“We used to think of a library as a building with stacks of books,” High School Principal Sue Skinner told the Journal. “Now we should think of it as a space where people come together to share ideas, be creative, access information, and even read. Instead of thinking of it so literally, we should think of it as a more active space and evolving.”

What’s helped the “no books” policy succeed, Skinner said, was the school’s heavy use of technology, generally. Each students is issued a MacBook. The school has been 1:1 (one laptop per student) since 2010.

According the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the school’s veteran libarian, Lynn Bottge, was opposed to e-books at first, but then saw how inexpensive they were.

“It would have been hundreds of thousands of dollars” to maintain stacks of hard-copy books at Benilde, she said. Under a deal available with one distributor, the school would have access to a catalog of about 200,000 scholarly e-books but pay only when they’re downloaded. The school subscribes to dozens of databases, which students can access throughout the building or at home with passwords.

“I think we’re in the era now where the library is not in one place,” said Bottge.

It’s tempting to lament the fading of the printed book, but students had been reading fewer and fewer of the books in the stacks over recent years, the newspaper said. Before she made the library all-digital, Skinner allocated money for English teachers to buy printed books of fiction for their classrooms. She told the Journal her students prefer to read this genre on the printed page, as many adults do.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, that’s so sad you have no books in the library,'” Skinner told the Star Tribune. “Well, there are books — they just look different.”

Meanwhile, San Antonio’s Bexar County has decided to build the nation’s first book-less public library — book-less that is, as far as physical books. All the reading at the BiblioTech, scheduled to open in the fall, will be done on computer screens and e-books.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff told ABC News he was inspired after reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Apple’s Steve Jobs.

“We all know the world is changing. I am an avid book reader. I read hardcover books, I have a collection of 1,000 first editions. Books are important to me,” Wolff told ABC News.

“But the world is changing and this is the best, most effective way to bring services to our community.”

Library goers will be able to take out books on devices in the library, take out one of 50 e-readers for a period of time or bring their own e-readers to the library and load books onto their own devices, The library plans to partner with e-book providers and distributors to provide access to thousands of titles.

According to Amy Wickner, who covers this subject extensively in a blog for Education Week, no public schools have gone all-digital with their libraries. But at least one other private school has: Cushing Academy, a coed boarding school in Massachusetts.

The 250-student school got rid of three-quarters of its 40,000 physical books in 2009 and went instead with digital formats, said T.H.E. Journal.

“We wanted to create a library that reflected the reality of how students conduct research and that fostered what they do,” Tom Corbett, the library’s executive director told the journal. “We needed a facility that went beyond the ‘stacks’ and embraced the digital future.”

photo credits — Top, Star Tribune; BiblioTech, ABC News
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Posted on January 18, 2013, in Innovation, Reading, Teaching, Technology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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