Thanks to Jen Robinson, I found out about Cushing Academy, and their decision to get rid of ALL of their library books.
As someone who once, in desperation, photocopied an entire Lenora Mattingly Weber book because I thought I would never get to read it again, I must admit that format does not matter to me. I love that my MP3 player replaces 100 pounds of records. A two pound e book reader would be easier to take traveling. But how would getting rid of all the books work in my library?
All 620 students in my school need to have something to read with them at all times. I keep my own paperbacks, so children who have overdue or lost books can borrow something to read. No child EVER leaves my library with nothing to read. Thus, every child in my school would have to have a laptop, a Kindle, or an iPod touch with a Kindle or Nook application.
I can't even download free audio books from The Ohio E Book Project because we are running Windows 2000. Cushing Academy is spending $500,000 on their renovation, including $50,000 on a coffee bar. That coffee bar allotment is what is being spent on the entire redo of my library to replace worn, forty year old carpet, shelving and furniture.
Cost. That's what it comes down to. Paper books are more cost effective. Yesterday I put a mylar cover on a 1963 edition of Sister of the Bride. It checked out immediately. For an initial investment of $3.95 ($27.77 in 2010 dollars), we have gotten 40 years of use out of a book. The platform didn't become obsolete, no updates (other than the mylar) were required, no batteries replaced. If someone loses this book, I can replace it for about $15.
There are 11,598 books in my library. Some will get peed on by cats, chewed on by dogs, or run over by lawn mowers. They will have milk, perfume and crayon shavings spilled on them. They will get shoved at the bottom of backpacks, lockers, and closets. They will be held together with glue, tape, and hope. Some will fall out of favor; others will fall apart. The collection will change, but one thing will remain: my students will be reading.
The only way that I see, right now, to get them the number of books they need for a price that the tax payers in my district can afford is to buy paper books. It is not because I am resistant to technology; it is because I am a realist.
As for Cushing Academy; wow. I hope that they have donated their books to local libraries that will appreciate them, so that they can drink in their new coffee bar without feeling too much guilt.