At Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, a town west of Boston, where the library once housed 20,000 books, there’s an expensive espresso machine and three large screen tv’s. Want books? The “library” has 65 circulating kindles that can be set up with the book or books you need. Students can tap into the libraries subscribed databases for research and study. The library is fully digital. Fairly soon, all of the printed books will be gone.
Now called Cushing Cyber Cafe, (though it’s commonly referred to as 12K Cafe – the espresso machine costs $12-grand), the Cushing Academy decision has sparked a s**t storm from all sorts of places. Thing is, over the recent past, maybe 30 of the 20,000 books had been checked out at any one time. The library was mostly empty. Now it bustles with the bland froth of cappuccino music. When I go into the Boston Public library these days, there are many people spread out reading books. But most of the computers (and there are many) are occupied. Many town libraries are experiencing the same thing. The push is to make the library experience more ‘relevant’. But at what price?
As an avid reader, I swing both ways. I like my digital reading experience. I like an occassional audio book as well. But I’d never want to give up the sound, and feel and heft of a book in my hands, or beckoning from the bedside. How the word is offered up will continue to come in many forms, ever changeable. But I don’t expect that the printed page will become extinct any time soon.
Headmaster at Cushing Academy James Tracy’s defense of his new (titter) paradigm.