Friday, February 19, 2010

Technology and MY Library: It's about cost effectiveness

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.


  1. An excellent post - giving up all your books is just not plausible (right now anyway) with most schools.

  2. I'd heard about them, but come on. "Cushing Academy"? Sounds like it's not the typical public school. I'm no format Nazi either, but I don't even see how e-books would work. When you check one out wouldn't you be checking out 100s of books at once? And even if they're a 1-to-1 laptop school, there are some books that just don't look good on e-readers. And elementary schools? Forget it. I can't see snuggling up at bedtime to read my little girl something on a Kindle.

  3. My husband is a recent convert to the nook. It has its appeal, but your are absolutely right about public school libraries. Even providing audio books in cassette or CD form has limited use as far as finances are concerned in most cash strapped districts today.


  4. Seizing on a very small part of your thoughtful post: I am delighted that one of your students checked out Sister of the Bride; I adore it. And isn't it interesting that YA hardcovers were much more expensive in 1963 than they are today?

  5. Anonymous8:51 AM EST

    Well said. Personally, I think paper books will remain for pleasure reading, but I see great value in using e-book readers for textbooks. So much lighter, easier to provide updates.

  6. Anonymous10:52 AM EST

    As a Blendon Parent, I am grateful for your insight on the neccesity of providing books to children.
    I surely can't afford to provide technology to all of my children.
    As an employee who works for a company that provides ebook and eaudiobook material--I promote them as well. They are extremely useful for us busy people who have no time to sit and read, but we can listen to a book in the care or read an ebook while at the gym. That said, I believe nothing replaces sitting down to a good book (an actual copy) and I can't wait for the time when life slows down enough for me to do so.