This year, the Shawnee Mission School District has cut funding for new library books in an effort to save money due to increased financial pressure caused by decreasing federal education funding. To “eliminate the purchase of library books,” as the Budget Reduction plan states, SMSD will have a district-wide savings of $107,212 .
“I would hate to see us not be able to get any books at all,” East librarian Kathi Knop said. “There’s a lot of information you can get off the Internet, but there still is nothing like holding that library book in your hand.”
Since no district funding is going to help SMSD schools buy books, this means schools are going to have to use other funds or hold fundraising events in order to raise money for new library books. Knop says that events, such as the Used Book Sale and Cappuccino day, are going to be used to raise funds for new books at East.
However, even though the district is cutting funding for new books, that doesn’t mean that all library funding is being cut. District libraries will still receive funding for things such as supplies and audio/visual purposes. Knop says that the $3,000 budgeted to the East library will be able to be moved around so at least some new books can be bought.
This is Knop’s first year at the East library. Before that, she was the librarian at Mission Valley Middle School. She believes that the cut for book funding will be more noticeable in the elementary and middle schools than it will be in the high schools.
“[High school students are] so busy with other classes, they’ve got so much work to do, they don’t have quite as much time to read for fun,” Knop said.
Michael Hill, one East’s top debaters and an International Baccalaureate student, constantly researches and reads up on topics and theory so that he can have the edge in his debates. However, despite all the reading that Hill does, he doesn’t use the East library.
“The books I’m looking for now are not books that you will find in an average library because it’s a lot of research papers and really academic books that I need for debate,” Hill said. “So I usually just assume that the East library doesn’t have them and so I’ll get them online or I’ll order them from Amazon.”
Hill, who says that he spends around 10 hours a week researching information for debate on top of the rest of his other IB responsibilities and schoolwork believes that online articles are typically read and used more than books for a reason.
“I think research online that’s in the form of articles and Google Scholars is a lot more consumable,” Hill said. “You can take an article online and read it pretty quickly and it’ll make all the arguments you need. It’ll tell you exactly what you want to know you don’t have to read an entire book for it.”
Certain libraries around the country are picking up on this message–instead of having actual books, they have gone completely technological.
“There’s a couple of colleges that have already gotten rid of all their books; they have a library with absolutely no books in it,” Knop said. “There was a library in Boston that has they were the first one that I heard about that started that. They showed a picture of it and there was not a book in there–it was all computers.”
Knop agrees that research can often be more efficiently done using online resources, as compared to using a book.
“I think for us, I will buy a lot less books now in the non-fiction [section] because research can be done so easily online and it’s updated constantly,” Knop said. “It’s more current rather than buying a science encyclopedia that’s going to be outdated in three years. They’re very expensive and now that we don’t have the money, you really have to think ‘Ok, what do kids use’, what are they going to use the most?”
Knop feels that this funding cut would have had a much bigger impact in the years past, when many people still used books for research.
“They didn’t have the online resources 10 to 20 years ago that we do today,” Knop said. “If students were doing a report, they had to have the books in order to get that research done. Now, there’s so much information that you can get online and there’s credible sources.”
Even though Knop feels that this is unfortunate, she also thinks that it is a good time to think about where the future of the library is really headed.
“I think it’s sad that this happened, however, I think it’s also a really good time for us to step back and say ‘How much money do we really need?’ Are there some ways where we can find alternative sources, instead of filling up the space with books?” Knop said. “It’s going to change, it’s definitely going to change.”