Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books.” They’re giving away every book that wasn’t antiquarian or donated. Even if we had the money to give all our books away and buy electronic books, we wouldn’t do it. Here’s why...
Our students and faculty aren’t a homogeneous group. Some of them love the feel of a book in their hands. Some don’t want to keep another battery charged constantly. Others complain of eye-strain. Many like to take books to the beach or on vacation or on the team bus and don’t want to worry about losing a $500 e-reader.
Our students also have many different learning styles. Some are easily distracted by online materials and would have a difficult time staying on task if doing all their reading on the Internet. With email, twitter, and facebook messages popping up, reading an e-book can be difficult at best. When surrounded by electronic gadgets, some students will automatically begin searching YouTube or their favorite sports sites. For many, the ability to escape the electronic realm provides a quiet, calming, and focusing influence.
Perhaps more importantly, the use of a solid book for research gives the reader a type of order and organization not readily apparent in an electronic book. The table of contents is in the front; the index is in the back. The author has organized the material by chapters so that ideas are developed in depth. E-books can be searched for a particular word or a factual answer. However, having that ability invites the opportunity to skim and to avoid reading deeply. Research requires students to read long passages and absorb meaning and make inferences. The type of reading that is made possible by electronic books has its place; links can be followed to see how different threads of information are related. But the printed book teaches organization and understanding in a way the electronic book does not.
We also teach our students that not every book can be found by searching the catalog. Browsing a set of shelves often leads to serendipitous finds that wouldn’t occur if we searched online for a particular list of keywords. The way we arrange books on the shelves leads readers to find related ideas in proximity to each other.
At Governor’s Academy we will continue to make a variety of formats available for students to use. As we continue to add to the number of materials that we make available electronically, we won’t abandon the technology that has served us so well.