I kid you not!
This article in the Times Higher paper highlights a worrying trend in our schools, a movement towards digital information as the only information available in schools. Google replaces librarians and their dewey decimal system and website replace books and newspapers as the source of all knowledge.
I know I’m not the only person who loves books, many people do, and like most people my love of books and reading comes from plenty of exposure to books and libraries when I was young. By getting rid of libraries we risk marginalising books as sources of information and pleasure for a whole generation of children!
If we take a moment to think of schools purely as places where we prepare young people for the worlds of work and higher education (which I don’t, but just for arguments sake) there is still a case to be made for libraries. Using a library teaches you to sift through a mass of information to find what’s relevant. You have to do this on the internet too. When writing essays for university I frequently had my allowance of ten books out at any one time, and often had to do triage or photocopying to get the information I needed. I also copied or took notes from multiple print journals which were unavailable online, despite the fact that literally thousands of journals are. If I’d only used online sources I doubt I would have passed. By getting rid of libraries and information skills we risk narrowing the skill set of state pupils and putting up another barrier between them and the elite universities.
I always took great pride in announcing during tours of campus that our library housed ‘over a million’ books. This was something to be proud of, and often visitors were more interested in this than the computer suite right next door. My university is a very young one, but great, top 5 or six in the country every year, because it prides itself on links with business and constantly keeps itself up to date, yet it values the library, staffs it with subject specialist librarians and has just spent money redeveloping it and modernising it. Yes, there are more computers in the library than I would like, but the books are still there.