Do School Libraries Need Books?

This is from the NYTimes. The school mentioned is giving away ALL of it’s books to make the library a digital center. Twenty thousand books are to be distributed.

This article comes on the heels of another I read about getting a Kindle into the hands of every grade-school student. I can’t find the article I read originally, but here is another on the same topic: The Government Should Spend $9 Billion Buying Every Kid A Kindle.

I probably wouldn’t have thought about this before, but now I’m in a Title 1 school and my first thoughts were about the kids – the kids that don’t have the advantages that my kids had. Are they well served at a school without a library? How will children who are 2 or 3 years behind in reading respond to words, story, information that is ALWAYS presented on screen? What will happen when the device is sent home and placed on the kitchen counter of a family that doesn’t have enough money for food? Transient rates are high in many Title 1 schools. What happens when a family moves and the device is not returned? I do not in any way want to sound judgmental but rather contemplative. I want to examine this from all angles, because once the government issues funding for this, we will be knee deep in it.

I’m trying to look at this from the eyes of a novice reader – that’s difficult because I’m not. But if every book to which a child is exposed (because the family can’t or doesn’t buy books) is on a screen, will that book have the same draw as one with paper pages? I don’t know, but I am curious about this phenomenon.

On this subject, one of ECU’s MLS professors summed her view up nicely (via email),

This discussion of the demise of the book came up when the radio appeared, and again, with the television, and again with the computer. Hasn’t happened – there are many more books published today for youth than there were with the first predicted demise of the book. It is not an either/or situation. This is about format, space, and timeliness of information. If the digital format is the best choice, then choose it, but don’t choose it because it is digital.  It is similar to people choosing hardware first and then realizing the software they really want to use doesn’t work with the hardware. Determine the information/leisure reading materials suitable for the community you serve and then determine the most appropriate format, which may well be the book.

6 thoughts on “Do School Libraries Need Books?

  1. Yeah, that idea will go over real well in this economy.

    Amazon will be thrilled, but what will Apple and Sony say? Probably easier to build another aircraft carrier, in the long run.

  2. I guess Apple and Sony need to be marketing better.

    I’ve got several posts on the federal funding eliminations for libraries and books, but kindles they can afford?

  3. I hate the idea of replacing books with digital stuff. There is something about the entire sensory esperience of reading the bound word that simply cannot be replaced by hard plastic.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like my iPod touch. I have a ton of classic books on it that I enjoy reading when I’m eating alone. But you’ll never catch me sitting on the couch covered by a blanket…fire in the fireplace…with my iPod.

    No. It’s got to be a REAL book. I love the very smell and feel of the pages. And there is something to be said for doggearing pages. It says that somebody has been there before me. Literally held that same book in their hands.

    I hope that someday my daughter will sit by the fire and hold and read my books. Books I’ve spent hours with….and doggeared…and feel closer to me.

    My daughter is in 8th grade and is doing her first research paper. She was REQUIRED to go to the public library and check out books. They CAN’T use any online sources. It’s all got to come from actual bound books. I think all kids should have to write at least one paper that way. I want to hug her teacher’s neck!

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