Opening the school library debate.

Opening the school library debate.

October 2011

The newly refurbished Cripps Library at Oundle School was formally opened on 31 October by Mr Robert Cripps.

Plans for the Library refurbishment began four years ago, followed by a successful fundraising campaign launched at the Grocers’ Hall in March 2010 which exceeded targets.

Work completed included the replacement of most of the original steel work in the mezzanine, the relocation of the stairs, the installation of a new heating system designed by Max Fordham, and new lighting designed by Sutton-Vane Associates.

The new library design has increased reader spaces, added more shelf capacity and improved access to IT (see News story for October 2011). The design has created the impression of a bigger space, but has also provided more privacy for reading and work.

The opening prompted some debate about libraries in a digital age. The libraries of thirty years ago conjure up the image of a hushed and whispery environment.  Nowadays libraries are a welcoming dynamic environment – compatible with modern technology and users are encouraged to use DVDs, talking books and online resources.  Though technology should never be a replacement for books, Philip Pullman was recently quoted in the Telegraph, saying that “using the internet is like looking at a landscape through a keyhole”, a learner is hugely limited when they choose only to read what Google or Wikipedia lets them find. Content aside, technology is far less reliable than a book.  Google only works with an internet connection, and a laptop only works with a charged battery.  Luke Hughes, the CEO of Luke Hughes®, who have designed and made furniture for sixteen major institutional libraries including the Cambridge University Library, the Institute of Criminology Christ Church College, Oxford and other major school libraries including Harrow, Giggleswick, Bryanston and Stowe, says “If the equipment fails, the knowledge evaporates.  Not so with books.”
Luke Hughes has noted that a refurbishment of a library can expect to encourage an increase in usage by 300% - a remarkable figure.  Anne Jarvis, University Librarian, Cambridge University, expressed her views about the importance of libraries for learning and development. ‘The best school libraries teach research skills, support teaching and help students develop essential literacy skills which will enable current and future students to approach the opportunities afforded by new technology for further learning and research with a sense of excitement rather than fear.”

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