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School Libraries May Soon Be History (computers instead of books)
Rhinoceros Times ^ | 1/22/09 | Paul C. Clark

Posted on 01/24/2009 7:44:06 PM PST by Libloather

School Libraries May Soon Be History
by Paul C. Clark
Staff Writer
January 22, 2009

Some local educators are imagining a future in which schools have no libraries.

Quick, thoroughly unscientific visual surveys of the libraries – called "media centers" in eduspeak – of Guilford County high schools of late give the impression that they're hardly beehives of activity, at least as far as books are concerned. The percentage of space dedicated to books instead of computers seems to have shrunk over the years, and a scan of the shelves turns up relatively few newly acquired books.

The use of the term media center shows that librarians – or "media specialists" – are dealing with a shift away from the printed word, and studies have repeatedly shown that the percentage of readers is declining among the US population, and sharply among teens and young adults.

A 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) found that reading, and reading skills, were dropping throughout the US population and plummeting for teens, particularly male teens. The study found a 14 percent decline in daily readers among 13-year-olds over the last 20 years, and a doubling of the percentage of 17-year-olds who don't read, from 9 percent to 19 percent, between 1984 and 2004.

The explosion of online sources of information is a boon to research – the figures above came from the NEA website – but, surely, the printed word is still indispensable to public education.

Maybe not, according to the Guilford County Board of Education's Construction Advisory Committee, which is looking for ways to build less expensive schools. The committee, as part of an ongoing review of the school system's construction specifications, is looking for underutilized space to eliminate from schools.

That space is turning up in what, for those who have been out of school for a while, seems like odd places. The library is one of them.

Members of the committee said the use of school media centers for reading books is dropping, and books eat up a large amount of space. They said that, at some point, school systems are going to have to start giving serious thought to eliminating libraries entirely.

"If the media center doesn't require space for books, and it's really just a computer space, it seems to me that you can cut down the space drastically," said committee member Gary Paul Kane. "I'm just not sure why you need a media center at all."

Committee members said that, in five years, every student may have a laptop computer or other reading device, making libraries as such redundant, or at least cost ineffective.

At this point, no one is taking serious steps to eliminate libraries from new Guilford County schools. But committee members said two trends are making such a move likely in the long run: the decline in the use of books and the increasing decentralization of schools. The current trend is toward learning clusters, or group centers, which are small groups of classrooms with their own books and computers. Committee members said that moving research tools, especially computers, closer to students makes sense, particularly as the use of library stacks, which can't be easily decentralized, drops.

Ironically, as the use of school libraries has dropped, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) has pushed for larger school libraries. The NCDPI now calls for 4 to 6 square feet of space per student in the main room of each school library.

Committee members said, however, that the push for larger library rooms is largely driven by the fact that libraries, along with auditoriums, are the biggest spaces for meetings in schools. They said it may eventually make sense to build larger multipurpose rooms to accommodate meetings, or to combine meeting and gym space, rather than to combine book and meeting space.

Another area the committee members said has become increasingly redundant is the shower space traditionally attached to school gyms. They said the feedback they get from teachers indicates that fewer and fewer students take showers after gym class, and that students, like the rest of society, expect more privacy. They said that locker room space has been reduced in new schools and could probably be reduced even further without anyone missing it.

The NCDPI's facilities guidelines for new schools recognize the decrease in showering among students, but don't call for eliminating showers.

"Although use of showers has declined in recent years, some showers should be provided that can be used for both P.E. and athletics," the guidelines read. "To encourage their use and maintain modesty, private shower stalls with enclosed dressing areas, small bench and several clothes hooks should be provided for both boys and girls."

In addition to increased calls for privacy, disciplinary worries have also reduced the demand for locker rooms. If you remember high school locker rooms as a bullying nightmare, you're probably right. The NCDPI writes, "Locker and dressing rooms tend to be high abuse areas and should be visible from P.E. teachers' offices to reduce vandalism and violence."

Those of us to who grew up with school libraries and who took showers after P.E., and to whom the lack of them sounds like a recipe for a smelly, illiterate future, may just have to join the 21st century. Schools change with society at large, and showers and libraries may just have to go the way of cursive writing. A recent Rhino Times story highlighted what parents say is a trend of otherwise high performing students who, introduced to computers at an early age and rarely, if ever, required to write longhand, never acquire the skill of writing, or sometimes even reading, cursive script.

The library-and-locker-room debate is part of the Construction Advisory Committee's efforts to increase the efficiency of future Guilford County Schools. Guilford County Schools administrators argue that the schools they built with the 2000 and 2003 school bonds didn't cost more per square foot than other schools in the state. That's true, but the school system tends to build more square footage per student, and use more land per school, than is the norm.

The 26 high schools built in North Carolina since 2002 average, according to the NCDPI, 178 square feet of building per student. Northern Guilford High School has 220 square feet of building per student, and the new Eastern Guilford High School has 225 square feet of building per student.

That gives Northern and Eastern the most space per student of all but two of the 26 high schools: Maiden High School in Catawba County, bid in 2004, which has 250 square feet per student, and Overhills High School in Harnett County, bid in 2002, which has 231 square feet per student.

In addition to square footage per student, the committee is looking at what's called the net-to-gross ratio of Guilford County Schools – the ratio of net, or program, space in a school to gross space – overall space including things like hallways and bathrooms.

Even if Guilford County Schools took a radical approach to school construction and eliminated all libraries and locker rooms, it probably wouldn't significantly improve the net-to-gross ratio in new schools, as some new programs have created a need for new space.

Committee members cited as an example the After-school Care Enrichment Services (ACES) program, which provides tutoring and recreation after school in elementary schools. They said such programs need office and storage space to avoid conflicts with current faculty.

"With more and more working parents, that's the sort of program that's going to increase, if anything," said Sue Robertson of the Planning Alliance, a New Orleans-based educational planning service that ran the process of creating the Guilford County Schools educational specifications for new schools.

The Construction Advisory Committee, formed at the instigation of former school board member Anita Sharpe and chaired by school board member Darlene Garrett, is trying to rein in the cost of schools, something some school board members said is critical in the wake of the school board's often criticized management of the 2003 school bond.

New school board member Paul Daniels, a recent addition to the committee, said many county residents tell him the school board goofed on the 2003 bond projects and needs to limit construction costs.

"We need to build adequate schools, but I don't think we can continue in good faith to spend the amount of money we're spending on schools," Daniels said. "We've got an opportunity to do the right thing, or to fall on our face."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: books; computers; education; libraries; library; school; technology; trends
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1 posted on 01/24/2009 7:44:08 PM PST by Libloather
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To: Libloather

“We need to build adequate schools, but I don’t think we can continue in good faith to spend the amount of money we’re spending on schools,”

No problemo! Obama has promised $120,000,000,000 (that’s $120 billion) for schools:

2 posted on 01/24/2009 7:54:39 PM PST by LibFreeOrDie (Obama promised a gold mine, but he will give us the shaft.)
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To: Libloather
As students become accustomed to reading Shakespeare on their laptops, it's a small step for them to start downloading popular novels. The wave of the future for publishing.
3 posted on 01/24/2009 7:59:01 PM PST by Ciexyz (Downloaded Ann Coulter's "Guilty" to my Amazon Kindle for $9.99 - 67% discount.No sales tax.)
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To: Libloather
I am a bibliophile. As I sit here in my basement office, I am surrounded by books. Some of which are quite old.

I have noticed a rather disturbing thing. When you find an old edition of, say, a history, and then read the same edition published now, you can find areas where they don't line up. More often than not, it is because one translator differed from another, but sometimes it is deeper than that. Case in point, if you read Beowulf today, and Beowulf in a earlier translation, you will notice that the later is clearly from a story written by Christians. The story itself may or may not be from the time where the tribes of Northern Europe were starting to convert, but the ones that originally wrote the story down were Christian and put Christian symbols and things into it.

A more recent translation will often not have any of that.

In other histories, it is often even more obvious some tinkering was done. Read a book on the rise of Fascism written in the later 40’s or early 50’s, and then read one written in the last ten years. The former will have it springing from similar roots as the Communists (only in Nationalist goals), while the latter will not mention any of the socialist underpinnings that helped spawn the Fascists.

My point is, putting every thing on line is a great way to just erase unpopular or unwanted facts.

4 posted on 01/24/2009 8:02:11 PM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Libloather
The use of computers in libraries can actually stimulate students to read printed material. Libraries in school districts that have adopted computer-managed reading programs such as Accelerated Reader are heavily used by students.
5 posted on 01/24/2009 8:16:43 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: redgolum

That is the advantage, or disadvantage, of having all digital libraries. Digital books can be edited. Evidence of the editing can be deleted. Those who don’t have paper books will never know what they originally contained. Pretty soon you may read JFK saying, “Ask not what Obama can do for you, ask what you can do for Obama”, and no one will question that. How could you question it? It’s in the digital Library of Congress. Sandy Burglar, Librarian.

6 posted on 01/24/2009 8:18:36 PM PST by Sender (It's never too late to be who you could have been.)
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To: Ciexyz

I hope that computers don’t replace books. Books don’t generate nearly as much eye strain as conputer screens.

7 posted on 01/24/2009 8:22:13 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: Libloather

if you don’t need books (i don’t agree),

then, why spend money on libraries?

give every kid a computer.

8 posted on 01/24/2009 8:22:33 PM PST by ken21
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To: Libloather

I say digitize school libraries - but only for high schools. I think it’s important for elementary and middle school students to learn the value and tradition of the written word in hardcover or paperback.

9 posted on 01/24/2009 8:24:34 PM PST by Extremely Extreme Extremist (The Libertarian and Constitution Parties should merge into one)
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To: redgolum
I remember when we years ago we ordered a set of Childcraft Encyclopedias for our children.

I found entries for various activists you've never heard of, the first woman in some obscure field, social justice figures of various skin colors.....

....and no entry for JOHN WAYNE.

10 posted on 01/24/2009 8:30:27 PM PST by Lizavetta
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To: Libloather

Nothing like curling up with a good - um - computer?

11 posted on 01/24/2009 8:31:59 PM PST by sneakers
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To: Fiji Hill

As a card member of the Los Angeles Public Library, a “good number of “ books are available through their e-media link on their websites. It beats bringing the book on a plane but the pdf file is handy just in case as well.

Nowadays, if someone uploads them through a BT site like mininova for free, I’ll DL for sure.

12 posted on 01/24/2009 8:32:34 PM PST by max americana
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To: Extremely Extreme Extremist
Our public library gets plenty of business from students. We have to keep a large collection of books on California missions for fourth graders and US presidents for fifth gradeers. In the spring our local high school students will be making a beeline for 973.7 when their US History classes cover the War Between the States.

We also have to keep plenty of copies of books often assigned by English teachers such as To Kill a Mockingbird and A Child Called "It" (which I believe should be in the fiction collection).

13 posted on 01/24/2009 8:35:47 PM PST by Fiji Hill
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To: Fiji Hill
I hope that computers don’t replace books. Books don’t generate nearly as much eye strain as conputer screens.

I find PDFs easier to read on my MacBook Pro than dead-tree print. I'm hoping that Apple jumps into competition with the Kindle in producing a use-anywhere book reader. It might be, say, a larger iPhone.

14 posted on 01/24/2009 8:36:37 PM PST by BlazingArizona
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To: Libloather
Printed books are the enemy of totalitarian governments.

You don't need electricity to read printed books.

Books can be read by candlelight when the power goes out.

Books in your possession cannot be changed by the government although they can be burned.

Old books just smell good.

15 posted on 01/24/2009 8:38:06 PM PST by this_ol_patriot (I saw manbearpig and all I got was this lousy tagline.)
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To: Libloather

An analogies question from the future once civilization arises again from the ashes of whatever takes ours down:

Fire : The Library at Alexandria :: EMP : ?

16 posted on 01/24/2009 8:42:12 PM PST by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know. . .)
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To: Libloather

The assumption that people will read books on thier computers is ludicrous. The millenials do not read and when they do the new mantra is: shorter is better. They also read while texting their friends, 10 AIM chat windows open, and listening to rap music.

The old adage you are what you read has not changed, and the millenials reflect this in their voting preferences (and now we have a celebrity for a president).

17 posted on 01/24/2009 8:42:38 PM PST by DiogenesLaertius
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To: this_ol_patriot
I love "dead tree" books.

Books can tell you so much more than online material. No one can edit them or censor them after the fact.

With a printed book, no one can electronically monitor what you are reading, or when.

This afternoon, I pulled an old book off my shelf. It was published in 1928. I had picked it up at a yard sale. How many other people had read and enjoyed that book?

I know someone who uses the Kindle device to download and read books from Kindle is not for me. I want a book I can hold in my hands, whose pages I can turn. Those who would destroy libraries would destroy freedom.

18 posted on 01/24/2009 8:47:55 PM PST by thecodont
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To: BlazingArizona
FWIW, there's a 99 cent app for the iPhone called "Classics." It only has public domain works, but it's 27 meg and has Alice in Wonderland, the Call of the Wild, Robinson Crusoe, The Jungle Book, Paradise Lost, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Huckleberry Finn, The Time Machine, the Hound of the Baskervilles, Gullivers Travels, A Christmas Carol, The Metamorphosis, Flatland, Pride and Prejudice, and Treasure Island. It only has about a paragraph per screen, but the books are quite readable, and I've found it to be a nice companion.

Unfortunately, you can't buy books and add them, there's only what's included with the application.

19 posted on 01/24/2009 8:50:33 PM PST by Richard Kimball (We're all criminals. They just haven't figured out what some of us have done yet.)
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To: Libloather
A disturbing trend I've noticed is what libraries have been getting rid of. In the past few years I've purchased (off the discard rack for 50 cents) Witness and Breaking with Moscow from local libraries. They had been removed from circulation and I suppose they would have been trashed if I hadn't saved them. Witness in particular is a book that no library should be without. It is the sort of story that burns in one’s soul and definitely has a place in history.

A fairly large library one town over has not one single book by GK Chesterton—not one. This is one of the most prolific writers of the early 20th century who inspired Gandhi and Micheal Collins, who rediscovered Dickens, who wrote the best biography of St Aquinas, etc. And he doesn't even exist? Love him or hate him, but to not include him at all? Air brush it out of history?

Build your own library, if not for yourself then for your grandchildren. It is said that when the Roman world fell, that the seeds of civilization were kept alive in monasteries in far away Ireland. That day is coming again.

20 posted on 01/24/2009 9:08:11 PM PST by Jacob Morgan
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