How to Expand Without Expanding—One School's Solution to the Challenges of Space Restriction

Vol. 8 No. 9

So, how do you grow your school if you don't have any more available land and you haven't been blessed with superpowers like Superman (who could simply lift the entire building up and place it in a new location with ample ground)? Well, a school in Ashburnham MA, has found a way to gain additional square feet—by eliminating 12,000 books from their library.

Cushing Academy whittled their library from 20,000 books down to 8,000, and plans to only have 1,000 at the end of their two-year transition. From their Web site, "In 2009, The Fisher-Watkins Library underwent a digital transformation. The Academy replaced the majority of the library's 20,000 printed books with electronic sources as a natural and integral outgrowth of the school's strategic commitment to being the national leader in 21st-Century secondary education, and to providing students with the necessary tools to become lifelong learners in a socially—and globally—connected world."

The Head, James Tracey, said in an interview with a Boston Globe reporter, "When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books."

"It has become the hub where students and faculty gather, learn, and explore together," he said, noting that the library increased its staff as it transitioned to a "digital format". "Our library is now the most-used space on campus, with collaborative learning areas equipped with smart boards, sections for quiet study, and screens for data feeds from research sites."

With 12,000 books removed, Cushing Academy has been able to create an interactive learning center including quiet cyber-carrels, open classroom space, a faculty lounge, and a cyber-cafe in a convivial setting for formal and informal student and teacher interaction.

Cushing Academy is not going 100% electronic, however. Many teachers are still assigning paper books, which students are encouraged to markup as they please. And, 1,000 books are still incorporated into the final plans—most of which have been donated to the school over the years.

Looking for more ideas on how to utilize your campus's space? Check out The Well-Kept Campus: Strategies for the Facilities Manager, June 23-26, 2010, Wilmington, DE.

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