Do School Libraries Need Books? (Yes! We needed “Annie on my Mind”!)

BOOKS: It’s costly to keep up with a traditional school library, with the constant need to acquire new books and to find space to store them. Meanwhile, kids aren’t spending as much time in the stacks as they used to; preferring to do much of their academic work online. The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” takes on the “Do Schools Need Books?” Question this week with several experts and school persons weighing in.

One school mentioned in the piece has already gotten rid of 25,000 books from its library and is putting together a new system. What do you think? Hm, I’m inclined to COMPLETELY PANIC when I consider the idea of children not having library books. Libraries are my soul, I cannot fathom a world without many many many libraries. I fantasize about getting enough money one day to pursue a graduate degree in media studies out west somewhere mostly because I just want to do everything in a big University library where the computers are just there to help you find the books. Because you guys the internet is not organized very well. But the library, that shit is fucking organized. Also I like books as objects that you feel and seek and have a relationship with and you write on it.

It’s a really interesting piece with voices from all sides, including cute librarian ladies. Here’s three, go read the rest and tell us what you think!

Matthew G. Kirschenbaum is associate professor of English at the University of Maryland and director of the campus honors program in Digital Cultures and Creativity:

“Books and libraries are working (or living) models of knowledge formation. We need them for the same reason we need models of atoms and airplanes. They are hands-on. They are immersive. Holding a book in our hands, we orient ourselves within a larger system”

James Tracy is headmaster of Cushing Academy, a boarding and day school in Massachusetts for grades 9 to 12, with students from 28 countries and 28 states. He holds a doctorate in history from Stanford University:

A small collection of printed books no longer supports the type of research required by a 21st century curriculum. We wanted to create a library that reflected the reality of how students do research and fostered what they do, one that went beyond stacks and stacks of underutilized books.

Liz Gray, a former English teacher, is the library director at Dana Hall School, a girls’ school in Wellesley, Mass. She is the president of the board of the Association of Independent School Librarians.

Just because there’s a lot of information online does not mean that students know how to find it, nor is the freely available information always the best information or the right information. One of my primary responsibilities as a librarian is to teach information literacy skills — defining research questions, selecting and evaluating sources, avoiding plagiarism, documenting sources — and in my experience this works best face to face with students.

WEDDING: In Buffalo City, New York, lesbian activist Kitty Lambert (no relation to our boyfriend as far as we know) went to city hall to get a marriage license for her and her girlfriend of many years and obvs they were like no. So she got some random gay dude named Ed to marry her instead. They met, they shook hands, they got a marriage license. Isn’t marriage wonderful! I bet they’re gonna have super cute kids!

CANADA: Small-town gay teens strive for big-city diversity and acceptance: For young people who identify as LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer), being out and proud in small-town Canada isn’t necessarily easy.

OPRAH: It’s on Oprah, so your Mom is probs gonna wanna talk to you about it: The High School Quarterback who “became a lesbian.” (@oprah)

UTAH: Over in Utah, the gay & lesbian community is not too thrilled about the yearlong moratorium on gay rights legislation. So they are making their voices heard! (@deseretnews)

HIGHSMITH: A new biography of Patricia Highsmith is unsparing in its antagonism towards the legendary “homophobic lesbian anti-Semite” author known for getting inside the sinister minds of characters like The Talented Mr. Ripley. The reviewer takes issue with the writer’s take. It’s a compelling review, srsly, check it out. (@theglobeandmail)

PRIDE: Several religious groups are objecting to plans for Vietnamese gay and lesbian groups to march in this year’s Lunar New Year parade in Little Saigon in Orange County. (@mercury news)

SUPERBOWL: A female perspective on the Superbowl Dodge Charger Ad:

SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Openly gay African-American becomes Speaker of the House in Rhode Island: Today at just before 6:00pm Eastern Time, Representative Gordon Fox was elected Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, and he was sworn in shortly afterwards. Fox becomes the first openly gay Speaker of the House of a U.S. state. (John A. Perez of California, also openly gay, is speaker-elect in California, but has not been sworn in yet.)

GRANDMA: This NPR story has been giving the team a lot of feelings this morning. A granddaughter interviews her gay grandma, and it’s just so adorable, you guys! Real tears!

DADT: The New York Times put out a recent poll asking whether Don’t Ask Don’t Tell should be repealed. They found that the wording of the question had a large impact on the answers. Turns out people are more supportive when the question asks about gays and less supportive when asked about homosexuals. Basically, the poll measured a phenomenon that we’ve observed in our own lives for a while. (@nyt)

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.


  1. I’ve spent more time in libraries then any other place (except my room and soccer fields). My parents would drop me off on weekends and holidays, and as I got older, I would sneak into the adult section and read books that made my head explode.

    Kitty made me cry and Ed made me smile. I love youtube.

  2. My entire school would collectively die if the library was closed.
    Why does all the crazy stuff come out of America? Why not Switzerland? Or, I dunno, New Zealand.

    • There’s plenty of international crazy, but due to American exceptionalism you never hear about them. Or, if you do, it’s just to prove that “See? America’s not that crazy after all!”.

      • Ooh, us Aussies have Tony Abbott. He thinks that women shouldn’t “throw away” their virginity, and he thinks that women should do all the household chores. Or something. There was some thing about ironing. He’s not too fond of gays either, surprise surprise.
        I hope he never gets elected. Rudd’s not much better, but still…
        Bob Brown should get elected, but that’s never going to happen.

        Australian politics are fun.

        Okay, what was I talking about…?

  3. I don’t even want to think about my daughter not having a library in her school.
    I feel like that woman’s last stand commercial could have gone on and on and on with more bullshit that we have to put up with, but that’s a good start. Now if it was only aired on tv where the losers from the car commercial would actually see it. Oh well.
    Hey Autostraddle, It’s snowing like crazy in south Mississippi. Hell froze over because the Saints won the Super Bowl!

  4. Losing libraries would be galling. It was at my local public library as a teen that I first developed skills in uncanny detection of homosexually-themed printed material. Being able to ferret out all lesbian content in any 2nd hand bookshop in twenty minutes flat is seriously my only useful life skill.

    That aside, I can see a case for increased (though never complete) digitisation of academic libraries, where the books are used primarily for research.

    However, at school, or for fiction libraries, I think it’s imperative that the physical objects remain. Maybe kids these days are used to reading everything off the screen, but I know I still can’t get totally immersed in the words unless I am holding them in my hands. It’s this level of immersion that creates the bonds of love for reading, and by taking away libraries, I think they’ll be taking away the chance for kids to discover that joy.

    • Hah, I definitely have some serious literary gaydar too, thanks to many hours spent creeping in the library.

    • I could totally understand libraries doing away with the research sections (or at least reducing them), but the fiction section is sacred.

  5. Yeah, but libraries are also used for FICTION. And also nothing, not even a kindle, beats the joy of having “Oranges are not the only fruit” in your hand while laying in a hammock and eating strawberries on a summer afternoon.

  6. Go Rhody!! I don’t live there anymore, nor will I ever again, prob, but my family probs has sad faces on today about the gay person elected. WHAT IF HE IS ABLE TO GIVE THE REST OF THEIR KIDS THE GAY??? As it is I got it from hanging out in lesbian bars…(thanks dad)

  7. Spending too much time behind a computer screen causes eye strain. So, not only will kids of the future be dumb, but they will also be blind. Awesome plan:/

  8. I just spent half my afternoon in my school’s library. I know I’ve probably said this a lot of times about a lot of things, but I will lose faith in humanity if libraries get replaced by computers and I will QUIT LIFE.

    • 20/20/20 rule, everybody! Every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. It’s saved my eyesight (or at least made it stabilize at someplace less horrible).

      • I know, my ex used to be on my case about that. she said I needed to look up from my screen, focus on a spot across the room, and then look back, periodically.

        That being said, I just wanted to hop on here for a sec to testify that my eyes BURN. That might be because my lamp broke and I can’t afford a new one that won’t also break within a week and so I am essentially living my life in a dark cave (it’s romantic) illuminated by bright computer screens; but this week has been vicious. Seriously I keep having to hold magazines up really close to my face to read them.

  9. I remember “Annie on my Mind”! My high school library actually had it, I read it when I was a freshman or a sophomore. It certainly fits the stereotype of bad lesbian teen fiction (it’s all bad), but it did the job for a secretly queer-curious 15 year old.

  10. Hey all,
    great stuff – so happy to have found your blog. But those administrators who are getting rid of books have to think about fiction versus non-fiction. Mabye non fiction books like biographies feel more replaceable with internet stations, but – especially vis-a-vis privacy, there’s something personal about the book you’re holding in your hand. Librarians often comment about finding GLBTQ books mis-shelved in their stacks, because people are afraid to check them out, so they take them from the shelves and sit somewhere to read it, and then mis-shelve it so they can finish the next time they visit. If everything’s electronic, there’s no chance for that kind of private exploration of stuff outside the accepted norms – and that would be a tragedy.
    Thanks for sharing about this,

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