A portrait of the library as a bookless room

Many years hence, as the students of Cushing Academy hold their faces close to their electronic book readers, they probably won't even know of those distant days of yore when people discovered literature by browsing shelves. That's because the prep school west of Boston donated most of its 20,000 book collection this year to local schools and libraries to make room for a new technology-riddled learning center. "When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books," said James Tracy, Cushing's headmaster. A $500,000 renovation will fill the former athenaeum with laptop-friendly study areas, three large flat-screen TVs, a coffee shop (with a $10,000 cappuccino machine), and 18 electronic book readers from Amazon and Sony. School officials argue this is the right move; a review of library records one random day last spring showed only 48 checked-out books, 30 of which were children’s selections, out of their 20,000-book collection. But librarian Liz Vezina, who has overseen Cushing’s bibliotheca for seventeen years, doesn’t think she’ll be getting used to the switch anytime soon. “I’m going to miss them. I love books. I’ve grown up with them, and there’s something lost when they’re virtual. There’s a sensual side to them--the smell, the feel, the physicality of a book is something really special.” We can already hear a scream coming across the sky from librarians around the world.

"Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books," by David Abel, The Boston Globe, September 4, 2009

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