The future of libraries

Library patron
A library patron looks at a book at the main branch of the San Francisco Public Library on January 11, 2011 in San Francisco, Calif.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

As the prevalence of e-books, Kindles and Nooks continues to grow, is it time to rethink our need for libraries in a digital world? Some say we need libraries more than ever.

"Users of public library Internet connections tell surveyors that they're applying for jobs, doing homework, getting information about health care, finding out about government benefits and managing their finances," wrote Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School, in a recent New York Times Room for Debate.

As technology develops, some are rethinking the traditional library. James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., helped reconceptualize their school's library.

From his piece in The New York Times:

A small collection of printed books no longer supports the type of research required by a 21st century curriculum. We wanted to create a library that reflected the reality of how students do research and fostered what they do, one that went beyond stacks and stacks of underutilized books ...

Our library is now the most-used space on campus, with collaborative learning areas, classrooms with smart boards, study sections, screens for data feeds from research sites, a cyber cafe, and increased reference and circulation stations for our librarians. It has become a hub where students and faculty gather, learn and explore together.

Tracy will join The Daily Circuit Monday, Feb. 18 to discuss the future of libraries. Kit Hadley, director of the St. Paul Public Library system, will also join the discussion.

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