Mark Wilson for The Boston Globe
The headmaster of a central Massachusetts school that eliminated most of the books in its library says the move has worked well, turning the the library into a magnet for students and faculty.
The library at the Cushing Academy in Ashburnham is now "the most-used space on campus, with collaborative learning areas equipped with smart boards, sections for quiet study, and screens for data feeds from research sites," James Tracy says today in a letter to the editor in the Globe.
"It has become the hub where students and faculty gather, learn, and explore together," he said, noting that the library increased its staff as it transitioned to a "digital format."
The school whittled the library's stacks from 20,000 to 8,000 books, Tracy said in an interview today. Only about 1,000 books will remain after the two-year transition is completed by the end of this summer.
Donated books will remain, as well as an expanded library of children’s books for faculty members who live on campus with their children. The bookshelves that were exchanged for learning areas have created “exciting” social learning spaces for a generation that is “very much about networking,” Tracy added.
The transition is also preparing students for college-level research, he said.
“The best universities are making this transition,” Tracy said. “What we feel we’re doing at Cushing is preparing students for the skill sets they need to do research in the best libraries.”
“We’re able to actually teach students in preparation for college: Don’t just Google somebody, but rather go to a database that has peer-reviewed journals, and make sure you’re using the best sources available,” he said.
Responding in his letter to a Globe story this week about the Harvard libraries working to maintain their stature in the digital age, Tracy said, "Libraries have the potential to become a new, more dynamic learning environment, a vital public space where people can learn together and debate civilly, while fostering tangible and meaningful human relationships."
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