Technology is a central to the learning at Burlington High School. There are smart boards in many classrooms, students turn in their assignments online and every student has a Chromebook. Unfortunately, when technology became integrated into the BHS school day and curriculum, students stopped relying on books in the library.
The library’s book collection is a carefully curated collection that is being reevaluated constantly.
“We take a look at what is being taught in school and we listen to what students and staff say that they want. From that we determine what gets priority what we need the most,” said Abbey Pasquence, a library assistant for BHS. She told the Register that the library sometimes acquires grant money that is used to buy books on a specific subject. However the library has a limited budget that has to cover computer maintenance, supplies and books.
Every student at BHS has a chromebook. The library paraeducators notice the school library is seldom used as a tool for research.
“I think that social media and screen time is a diversion,” said Sean Fleming who is a library assistant and history teacher at BHS.
“I think it takes up a lot of our time for silly things [phone time] so in some ways, yes. I think we need to read more,” said Fleming.
While the Library has thousands of books that students are welcome to check out, it is primarily used for quiet study.
“Students check out books not as much as we would like and we have a great selection of books,” he said.
Still it has regulars.
“We have a group of voracious readers and I know students who come in every week looking for a new book,” he said. “It’s not everyone. We wish it was everybody. These are students who are reading for pleasure because they love to read.
While the number of students who are reading in the library is decreasing, the ability to read well is useful in the school setting according to Fleming
“Reading is a skill. Reading is like working out your muscle. The more you do it the more you get better at it the more you’re able to understand schemes and tropes the author uses. It can help you with your writing. Reading can definitely make you a better all around student,” Fleming said.
Another concern is the loss of research skills. Students today do not think to use books as resources.
“They are losing their skill in finding their resources in hard books,” He said. “But the nature of media is changing and there are tremendous scholarly sources online,” he added.
When asked if he is upset about the shift from books to technology he did not have a definite answer.
“In some ways yes because we have a trove of great resources that students are just not using and teachers aren’t bringing their students down here to use those sources,” Fleming said.
Fran Brock, a History teacher at BHS commented on the usefulness of the Library from a teacher’s perspective.
“I would love to use the library more as a teacher tool. My concern with the library is that it doesn’t have the kind of research materials that would be appropriate for high school students,” she said.
Brock also is sceptical of the material the the Library has to offer students.
“Too much of what the library has is reference books it doesn’t have a good collection of books by historians the kind of primary sources,” she said.
Tracy Racicot, the BHS Principal believes that books have a purpose at BHS. In an email to the Register Racicot wrote,
“The library is alive with BOOKS!”
She also added that traditional texts will have lasting importance.
“Physical books will always be an important vehicle to expand our minds. There’s no replacement sometimes for the feel and smell of a book. It’s our hope that we’ll have continue to have many conventional books here as well as a much higher number of digital volumes to explore.”
While Racicot feels that books are a vital component in the BHS school curriculum and day to day life she believes that technology opens up new opportunities. The school purchased Chromebooks in 2014. Chromebooks are part of the regular district budget and are not made available through a grant or donation,” Racicot said.
“When you connect computers to networks and the Internet, one’s creative capacity expands exponentially through collaboration, publishing potential and curation. ” she said.
Both actual books and Chromebooks are and will continue to be an important part of how students learn at BHS. However Racicot feels that “It’s important we don’t see technology as a focus in itself, rather as a vehicle to get us somewhere.”