The library at Minneapolis' Benilde-St. Margaret's has no books, but the space at the Catholic preparatory school is proving to be more useful than ever -- digitally.
The school scrapped its entire 5,000-copy print collection in 2011, save some reference titles. Teachers selected titles they wanted to keep for classroom libraries, and the rest were donated to schools in Africa.
Now, the once bookshelves-filled library is occupied simply by tables and chairs where students work with school laptops. While schools across the country cut back on library resources for budgetary reasons, the move at Benilde was influenced by shifts in student need and behavior, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"We used to think of a library as a building with stacks of books," high school principal Sue Skinner told the School Library Journal. "Now we should think of it as a space where people come together to share ideas, be creative, access information, and even read. Instead of thinking of it so literally, we should think of it as a more active space and evolving."
At the new, digital Benilde library, students can do research through online databases like Gale and ProQuest and get help from math and literacy coaches. Skinner is also looking to equip the space with more laptop stations, an interactive whiteboard and a large monitor for students to "throw tup things on a screen" during group work.
Benilde's venture comes as the Obama administration has called on schools to embrace digital textbooks by 2017. At a time when the younger generation has taken information gathering and communications online, digital books are being viewed as a way to provide accessible, interactive and fresh learning that could also save districts money.
"When a student reads a textbook and gets to something they don't know, they are stuck," Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski told the Associated Press last February. "Working with the same material on a digital textbook, when they get to something they don't know, the device can let them explore: It can show them what a word means, how to solve a math problem that they couldn't figure out how to solve."
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