This year, after having amassed a collection of more than 20,000 books, officials at the pristine campus about 90 minutes west of Boston have decided the 144-year-old school no longer needs a traditional library. The academyâ€™s administrators have decided to discard all their books and have given away half of what stocked their sprawling stacks – the classics, novels, poetry, biographies, tomes on every subject from the humanities to the sciences. The future, they believe, is digital.
â€œWhen I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,â€™â€™ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. â€œThis isnâ€™t â€˜Fahrenheit 451â€™ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. Weâ€™re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.â€™â€™
Instead of a library, the academy is spending nearly $500,000 to create a â€œlearning center,â€™â€™ though that is only one of the names in contention for the new space. In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels. Where the reference desk was, they are building a $50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine.