Ok, 2 pints of Hefeweizen is not the way to start off this blog; but no one ever said I'm not dedicated.
Have any of you seen this? Cushing Academy is indeed ushering in a brave new world. I never thought there could ever, ever be a library without books. A library without books? Isn't that an oxymoron?
Granted, when I was in college, I never really did the whole Dewey Decimal thing. I didn't much care for browsing through the shelves; deciphering the numbered codes posted in the aisles; scanning for an author; hoping the book I'd written down based on its title alone had at least a little something to do with my research prompt...and also hoping I was lucky enough to find a book that hadn't already been checked out, or completely removed due to its lack of relevance. I second-guessed myself quite often. Someone already has my topic. Someone will be using the quotes I was going to use. I'm so unoriginal! So uninspired! I've got to pick a new theme!
I was a huge fan of JSTOR. The biggest. If anyone ever asked me where I'd gotten my research -- yeah, it was JSTOR. All online. All the time. Easy. Convenient. Printable. (Get this -- because even though I preferred researching online, I absolutely hated reading anything via computer. The screen makes my eyes uncomfortable. Sort of ironic for a blogger, right?)
So how do I feel about a library -- I mean a learning center -- without books? It's hard to say. On the one hand, it's pretty cool that the library will be able to provide their students with millions of books and materials, instead of the 20,000 or so they'd originally had physically stocked for use.
On the other hand...
Where's the smell? Where's the palpability? Where's the clear indication that you did read those pages, you did mark them up (because you're a rebel), and you did take the time to actually dedicate yourself and check something out, rather than just download and skim? (Oh, don't think you won't be skimming with that new Sony eReader, or that fancy new PC. I see those instant messaging sessions. I see you check your email while you halfheartedly scrawl a note about a sentence you only halfway understand.) Will a laptop-friendly studdy carrel really keep you isolated enough to write a research paper? I don't think so. I thought that was the point of the Internet: connectivity to everything, everyone, everywhere. There is no solitude, and no room for independent research. You may be sitting alone, but sitting alone with a book, one author, is much, much different than sitting alone with the Internet, with millions of people's opinions at your fingertips. Beneficiary or disadvantageous? I suppose it's all dependent on the student. Personally, I don't think I'd know where to go in a library without books. I'd get lost. What, do I just sit down? Then what? Just start?
The thing that twisted me the most on this issue is the fact that Cushing Academy is replacing their reference desk with a $50,000 coffee shop, which includes a $12,000 cappuccino machine.
You're replacing (I assume) good, hard-working, helpful librarians with coffee? Coffee?? Oh, I get it. I get it. Because coffee is helpful, too. Right. Where was coffee when I needed to find Martin Buber's I and Thou? Who do I ask when I'm having trouble figuring out how to run the technology that's supposedly changing my research for the better? Man, that pumpkin latte sure had some great insight into Romantic poetry. I got an 'A' in that class, thanks to coffee.
Growing up around books, it's all sort of hard to stomach (the transition, not the caffeine...or can it be both?). I suppose the generations born after me will find it easier to utilize this sort of drastic change; they'll feel more comfortable in this surrounding. But it is drastic, right? I can't be alone in feeling this way. Are we in desperate times, needing desperate measures? And are we so enamored with the future, we're forgetting the best of the past?