A Massachusetts private school has decided to get rid of all of the books in its library.
Really. This is happening. I was not taken in by an article from "The Onion."
Read all about it right here.
Headmaster James Tracy of the Cushing Academy in Ashburnham told the Boston Globe, "When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books."
Instead of books, Cushing Academy will spend half a million dollars to build a "learning center" replete with an array of e-readers, flat-screen televisions, internet portals and, oh yes,a $12,000 cappuccino machine. (Once again, I must stress that this is not from "The Onion.")
School officials pointed out that kids at the school don't check out many books. Perhaps that's true -- but who's fault is it? Did faculty members spend time stressing the value of books? Did they place an emphasis on traditional research methods and ban Wikipedia from research papers? Did they portray reading as utilitarian or as a thing that brings joy and beauty to life? Did they ever talk about the value of browsing?
This last point is an important one. An e-library simply does not allow for browsing. Anyone who loves books knows the special joy of wandering among stacks -- whether at a library or a new or used book store -- keeping an eye open for something interesting. Chances are, you didn't even know that book existed until you pulled it off the shelf. Maybe the title attracted you, or the subject sounded interesting. Perhaps you had read something else by the author. No matter. Something drew you to the book, and now you can explore it and ask, "Do I want to take this home tonight?"
The dust jacket, the blurbs on the cover, the random flip of the pages to sample the text -- how can a download compete with that?
The Globe's story about Cushing Academy comes with a sad photo: Headmaster Tracy stands among broken shelves in an open space that I must assume once housed books. He is scratching his head, looking a little uncertain. He should be, considering all he has laid to waste. (Read his defense of his actions. Not persuasive, in my view.)
Asked to comment on the matter, senior Jemmel Billingslea opined, "It's a little strange, but this is the future."
I must beg to differ. It's more than a little strange -- it's downright menacing. And it need not be the future. Don't go gently into a brave new e-world that may be new but certainly isn't brave. Fight back, Jemmel. Lay aside your gadget. Pick up a real book. We're counting on you.
Causes Rob Boston Supports
American Civil Liberties Union, American Humanist Association, Center for Inquiry