Monday, April 14, 2014

Do We Still Need Paper Books?

Has anyone ever asked you why we still need libraries because e-books are the wave of the future?  Or perhaps you have a golden opportunity to renovate your library and you're wondering if you really need all those books since e-books don't take up any space!  

I am 1/2 way through a $100,000 renovation myself and have been asked these questions - and many like them - multiple times.  I have come up with the following arsenal of responses and thought they might come in handy for you: 

1.  When surveyed, children still prefer physical books to e-devices when it comes to reading.  It's adults, not children, that are on the upward trend for e-reading.  (Try to find that study to give that statement merit).

2.  Even if you do end up entirely digital, will there be a guaranteed budget for the purchase, maintenance, and updating of whatever e-devices are purchased moving forward?  If e-devices aren't purchased because you're BYOD, than you have to only use a program that can be used on any device (like follett shelf).  It's a great program, but whenever you stick with one publisher there are always exclusions and you'd need someway of surmounting that difficulty.  In short, you'd be depriving your students for a higher cost.  (They never like hearing that you'd be wasting money). 

3.  From a percentage perspective an extremely small amount of the world's knowledge has been digitized.  Yes much of the latest fiction has been, but not always, and NOT non-fiction.  I would share with them how many of your volumes you'd be depriving your students  if you went all digital.

4.  Explain the all-out-war that is currently going on with publishing companies in regards to the price points of e-books.  Most non-librarians have no idea that some books are single access while others are simultaneous access.  They also don't know that from book to book, it is almost always more expensive to go with the digital version, even if it's single-use.  If you were able to completely replace your library digitally, I would guess it would be 30%-50% more expensive than just going with hard copy.  This is another great argument for the district that is trying to save.

5.  You can also talk to them about the psychology of color and how the mind is stimulated through images, especially for young learners!  What would an entirely digital library look like?  Rows of shelves holding devices?  Where are the images that are going to inspire kids to read?  Would you have giant TV's scrolling book trailers (which is more money)?  Book covers are too integral to readers advisory and literacy in general to ignore.

6.  Even if you went entirely digital, the common core has an undeniable focus on collaborative learning now.  You'll need more space even just to accommodate that; lots of soft and flexible seating to serve a wide range of educational uses.

7.  Remind them that we also need to serve the differentiated learner.  Whenever a classroom - including the library - only chooses to do anything ONE WAY, there are serious ramifications.  Just as some lessons are flipped, some are lectures, some are socratic, etc., the library needs to have audio, visual, and tactile components to be the most effective.

8.  Leave them with this quote:    “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ”― Alvin Toffler.  It's not about getting the latest gadget.  It's about being part of a society that constantly unlearns and relearns.  If you buy all in to one way, your students will not be exposed to another.  They need to be able to use a table of contents AND CTRL-F.  They need e-books AND audio books AND picture books AND podcasting equipment AND video editing software AND AND AND!

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