Several people pointed out this article in the NYTimes. In it, the “new, experimental” method of allowing student to choose their own books is highlighted. Nothing new there, and the comment that “Letting students choose their own books, they say, can help to build a lifelong love of reading” should inspire a huge DUH in all readers.
One of the comments I read was “where is the school library?” Really? That’s what we’re focusing on? Seriously, stop. This “we’re the trained book people” has got to end. English teachers are perfectly qualified to help students choose books – at least, I’d hope they are! And who’s to say that at these schools, the children don’t choose their books from the library? So it’s not mentioned. Get over it.
Monica’s post about teaching reading sums up what I hope teachers are doing. No one could accuse Monica of not having a good relationship with her librarian (the incredible Fairrosa), or of working in a school that doesn’t value the library..
I’m more concerned about Cushing Academy, where the library is being gutted in favor of electronic resources. At MPOW we’re moving to more eBooks/databases than before, but the value of print still resonates. Even worse, at CA they don’t appear to have librarians (or it’s sloppy reporting and no one asked a librarian what they thought of this new phase). As one friend pointed out, they’re using free resources, not paid-for databases. Free’s good, don’t get me wrong, but the implications of only using free is problematic: what if the resource suddenly becomes “pay for”? who assure the accuracy and usefulness of the resource and/or information? And devaluing the library in this way smacks of balancing a budget without thinking about the consequences. I’m also troubled by the statements from the students of using Google and Wikipedia as sources, rather than being taught how to do research and evaluating the information they find.
In short, let’s pick our battles more carefully. A school encouraging readers does not necessarily mean it’s a school that doesn’t believe in libraries – but a school decimating its collection in favor of an internet cafe is to be fought at all costs.
ETA: There’s a wonderful post and discussion on the YALSA blog about CA’s decision.