Illinois Loop
Your guide to education in Illinois
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Libraries

Out With the Books!

  • Academic Libraries Empty Stacks For Online Centers By Kris Axtman, Christian Science Monitor, August 23, 2005. Excerpt: "When students wander into the former University of Texas undergraduate library this fall, gone will be the 'Quiet Please' signs, the ban on cheeseburgers or sodas, the sight of solemn librarians restocking books. The fact is, there will be no more books to restock. The UT library is undergoing a radical change, becoming more of a social gathering place more akin to a coffeehouse than a dusty, whisper-filled hall of records. And to make that happen, the undergraduate collection of books had to go. This summer, 90,000 volumes were transferred to other collections in the campus's massive library system - leaving some to wonder how a library can really be a library if it has no tomes."

  • An Axe To The Root Of Our Culture by Julia Lewis, The Spectator [UK], cover story, December 15, 2001. "Julia Lewis reveals how the government is forcing libraries to sell -- and sometimes pulp -- great works of literature in the name of vibrancy and multiculturalism. 'Are you sure you really want to sell these?' I asked the librarian, having picked out The Darling Buds of May, a George Eliot and two Oxford University Press Dickens novels, all in immaculate order, which I was about to buy for less than 50p each. It seemed odd that a library should be almost giving away good-quality books, especially as Merton, like other London boroughs, was desperately short of cash. That tiny sale was nothing to what followed. At Raynes Park and Wimbledon libraries, rooms have been set aside for tables stacked high with hundreds of books of every description, and underneath are yet more volumes crammed into boxes. Art books, children's encyclopaedias, botanical books, science books, countless classics and modern works of fiction, most in excellent condition and all at ludicrously low prices."

  • Purging the Classics From the Local Library by G. Tracy Mehan, III, American Spectator, January 4, 2007. "... in one of America's wealthiest counties, Fairfax, Virginia, ... the librarians ... have adopted some hard-nosed marketing practices to give the customers want they want -- or at least get rid of the titles they don't want. ... The Fairfax libraries are now using new computer software programs to identify titles that have not been checked out in 24 months. Victims, to date, include the speeches and writings of Abraham Lincoln, The Education of Henry Adams, poems of Emily Dickinson, and, according to the Washington Post's Lisa Rein, 'thousands of novels and nonfiction works' that were swept up in the computer vacuuming. Other books that ... could be discarded include: The Works of Aristotle, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway, Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Other selections expunged from various branch libraries are Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and Virgil's The Aeneid. Among the more contemporary authors excluded from some libraries are the likes of Kate Millett, Jack Kerouac, and Maya Angelou."

  • Loyola University of Chicago:

High-Tech Dumbing Down

  • Computers in Class are Lousy Teachers by Cliff Stoll, Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2005. Excerpt: "As the new school year approaches, our nation's computer hucksters will begin their annual promotion of technology in the classroom. Calls for wired schools have resulted in a fountain of money from telephone fees, bond issues and supplemental taxes. What pressing problems cause us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on computers for schools? Are our students technological illiterates, afraid of the Internet? Are there not enough electronic messages in our children's lives? Do they not get enough time at keyboards and monitors? Are their attention spans too long? Do students show too much respect for their teachers? If so, then yes, we need more computers in our schools. In truth, though, today's students are overloaded with computer games and Web pictures of rain forests. They're far more likely to be enthralled with a visit to Pit 91 of the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits. But the money is to be spent on video displays, not field trips to dig fossils. The computer changes the ecology of the classroom. Attention is diverted away from the teacher and toward the magic screen. Electronic media are emphasized at the expense of the written word. Books feel boring compared with their online competitors. As a result, school libraries have morphed into media centers, where Internet feeds and DVDs push aside books and magazines."

  • New 'Media Center' Out Of Date For Schools? by Robert Smith, Palo Alto Weekly, November 21, 2001. "'The greatest thing since sliced bread' is one description of the proposed new Media Center in Palo Alto. That's what I thought two years ago when I was one of the leaders of the effort to sell the Cable Co-op and thus generate the $17 million contribution for a world-class media center. However, problems have developed along the way. ..."

    Also see:
       Illinois Loop: Computers

Library Use Reveals Dumbing-Down

  • Although this essay concerns the specific issues of a Catholic college, it offers an interesting insight into use of libraries as an indicator of a general decline in academic rigor: Identity Crisis by John R. Dunlap, June 19, 2003. Excerpt: "With few exceptions (often as not, a date when I myself had checked out the book), the due slips told the same story, again and again: a long series of check-out dates stopping, suddenly, in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dazed by this discovery, I sat at a reading table to gather my thoughts. How many thousands of students, I wondered, have passed through this school since 1970? Is it even mathematically probable that these worthy, well-thumbed books would suddenly, at about the same time, stop being read?"

Public Libraries

  • Library Textbooks Leave Few Homework Excuses By Lisa Black, Chicago Tribune, October 17, 2006. By the time Mesa Schmidt realized she had left her weekend algebra homework at school, it was Sunday afternoon and impossible to enter the building. This time, though, the 13-year-old was able to find the pages she needed on intercepts and linear equations at Lake Villa District Library, which recently stocked three shelves with textbooks supplied by the local school district. ... The school district has lent one copy of each book to the library. The books are held as reference materials only and cannot be checked out. Public libraries in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Park Forest and Skokie have a similar setup with area schools, which librarians say is rare."

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