What Was Then and What Is Now?

Everyone is talking about eBooks. They are changing the face of reading, book ownership, and the publishing industry. But how are they affecting your school library? Do you want to let the vendors and the publishers control what and how your students read? Will you just sit back and let the media change dramatically the way you teach? Or will you take charge of the situation? Will you ask and answer some difficult questions, and follow the path that best suits your school's mission?

There is a spectrum of digital collection building. One end is the traditional print library. The other end is an entirely digital collection. There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice, an infinite variety of combinations of the formats, and a variety of decisions that contribute to successful collection development for a specific school situation.

In September 2009, Cushing Academy (Massachusetts) made the news everywhere for choosing to eliminate most of its book collection. Why did they do that? What benefits did they see to this decision that forwarded their school's goals? Cushing's Library Director Tom Corbett describes here the Cushing process and the results.

In contrast, some libraries are choosing an Information Commons model, as did Northfield Mount Hermon School (Massachusetts). Alison Ernst spent her 10 years as the NMH library director researching and leading a change from the more traditional library model to this blended model. Prior to independent school librarianship, she provided public library access to services and collections to patrons of all ages (cradle to grave). In a previous life as a daycare teacher, she worked with preschoolers, reading aloud ad infinitum the classics of 20th century children's picture books and early readers. Building on those experiences in combination with her recent MFA in Writing for Children, she writes here about the relative merits of various formats. Digital resources, audio, video, and print are different avenues to understanding, suited to different goals and possibly learning styles.

Bill Mayer is the university librarian at American University in Washington, DC. He attended the 2011 NAIS Annual Conference to speak to independent school leadership because he recognizes the importance of what we do in K-12 to educate the students he sees as freshmen maturing to college graduation. He also offers reflections on what universities are looking for in their new admissions -- and their new admissions are our graduates.

I am Dorcas Hand, director of libraries at Annunciation Orthodox School (Texas). Working in a K-8 school, I represent libraries for the middle and lower grades and have been wrestling with the issues of eBooks at those levels. I am also the editor of the 2010 publication Independent School Libraries: Perspectives in Education (Libraries Unlimited).

Together, we offer you questions to consider and perspectives on possible answers. As administrators and librarians work together to offer the strongest library possible for their students, answers to these questions will focus a school's thinking about forward-looking needs in independent school libraries of the 21st century.


Dorcas Hand is director of libraries at Annunciation Orthodox School (Texas). Tom Corbett is library director at Cushing Academy (Massachusetts). Alison Ernst is the former library director at Northfield Mount Hermon School (Massachusetts). Bill Mayer is university librarian at American University in Washington, DC.