Is this the wave of the future? Prestigious Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts has decided to get rid of all 20,000 books in the school's library and go completely digital. Instead of dusty stacks, the library is spending close to half a million dollars to install a digital learning center. Flat screen TVs, "laptop friendly carrells," and a coffee shop will provide access to millions of books as opposed to twenty thousand that were in the library previously.
I am curious if there is a parallel here for genealogy libraries. Cushing Academy mostly serves on-campus students whereas genealogy libraries serve a much wider geographic area. If done successfully, a digital library could theoretically serve national or international patrons.
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books," said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.
“Instead of a traditional library with 20,000 books, we’re building a virtual library where students will have access to millions of books,’’ said Tracy, whose office shelves remain lined with books. “We see this as a model for the 21st-century school."
Not everyone is complete agreement with the Cushing Academy's bold new move, however. You can read more in an article by David Abel in the Boston Globe at http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/09/04/a_library_without_the_books/.