Is the all‐electronic route a sensible option for the modern school library?

Andrew K. Shenton (Monkseaton High School, Monkseaton, UK)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Publication date: 20 November 2009



There is increasing debate concerning the need for libraries within British schools. Many city academies are opening without them and existing schools are considering discarding their collections of paper non‐fiction materials. This paper aims to present a balanced view of the arguments for and against such courses of action.


The paper investigates the issues through the use of a wide range of sources, including books, journal papers, newspaper articles, blog entries and contributions to a recent radio programme.


Ostensibly, there are sound reasons for schools shifting information provision towards electronic materials. Paper collections may be seldom consulted and their upkeep is costly, whilst effective use of the web demands that youngsters apply increased critical skills. Nevertheless, traditional libraries serve as an effective model for the organisation of information and offer a training ground for the information skills development. Youngsters can undoubtedly benefit from a hybrid information world. Offering an electronic‐only environment may lead to highly formulaic information‐seeking behaviour and many of the web's weaknesses render it a questionable tool for effective learning. A wholly electronic approach across schools is unlikely to be realised in the near future.


While the question of whether a traditional library should remain a prerequisite in schools inspires much comment, papers systematically putting the cases “for” and “against” are rare. Here the author draws on his own knowledge and experience, as a scholar and information professional, to present both sides of the argument. The work should be of interest to practitioners and academics alike.



Shenton, A. (2009), "Is the all‐electronic route a sensible option for the modern school library?", New Library World, Vol. 110 No. 11/12, pp. 487-497.

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