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The Death of Paperback Print

Thomas Howell and Leon Zhao

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Walk into the Ward Melville library and look around; what do you see? Crowds of students are gathering around the chess tables, converging at the computers, and sitting at the tables, doing homework or playing on their phones. Meanwhile, the thousands of books on the shelves lay motionless, collecting dust from years of neglect.

In recent years, the library has increasingly become an digital center of learning and the role of books in students’ education has vastly diminished. Whether it is a research paper or just an ordinary homework assignment, students seem to gravitate toward internet resources rather than print texts. As one student, Kathryn Zhao, puts it, “When I need to search something up, I just type it into Google or Wikipedia, but I’ve never actually used a book from the school library.” Other students express similar sentiments. Junior Suraj Singh contends, “I have never taken a book out of this library and I never plan to either. Whenever I need to know something, I use Google.” These voices are evidence of the changing role of libraries in education and the transition of didactic means from traditional print sources to more expansive and more convenient technological resources.

This trend at Ward Melville High School is not entirely the product of society’s growing reliance on computers, however. Although most students do not borrow books from the Ward Melville library, many of those same students still take books out of the local Emma S. Clark library. Even as the school library stands as the more convenient option for borrowing printed material, Emma S. Clark is still decidedly more popular among the student body. This may be because the public library has an even wider selection than the school library, so students do not even bother checking the library in their own school, even though they walk past it, or maybe even sit in it, almost every single school day.

Who knows what hidden treasures lay undiscovered in the abandoned expanses of the Ward Melville library? Maybe one day, each and every book in the school library will have finally been readbut until then, the books in Ward Melville’s library, along with the knowledge they cloak in cloth and leather, will remain untouched on their shelves.

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