Its magnificent size prompted me to reflect on my days at my childhood library.
It was an old fashioned red brick building with a small playground outside. A beautiful children's area filled with bean bag chairs, puppets, and shelves of books as far as the eye could see. The reference area had all of the latest additions of newspapers from around the world. Encyclopedias from different publishers dating back to long before I was even born. A spiral staircase that always made me hold on tight to my mother's hand took one up to the area where the microfiche machines were.
Wait a second. . . did I actually just type MICROFICHE? Kids today have no idea of what that even is! I mentioned a card catalogue to my 10 year old the other day and she thought that it was a catalogue that she could look in to order birthday cards for her friends---online! Newspapers. . . ink on your fingers that you rub on your face when you scratch your nose. Unheard of! Everything in this world is not digital. Do librarians even exist, or are they only there to make sure that the internet connection is working in the building?
All sarcasm aside, I think that the role of both the public and school libraries is changing dramatically, and I see both positives and negatives to this.
Obviously, the internet has changed everything. Information is at our fingertips as fast as we are able to type. This is wonderful. Our children have learned to satisfy their thirst for knowledge quickly, and can then continue to question in greater detail. However, are they truly savoring that initial satisfaction?
Being that we are able to locate information so quickly, we, myself included, don't always take the time to store it in our memory banks because we know that we will be able to recover the information just as quickly the next time that we need it. From my own personal experience, when I had to work to find the information I retained it better, and appreciated it more.
I think that there is something to be said for looking up your book in the card catalogue, recalling the Dewy Decimal System, and searching through the stacks to find it. Once you find the book, then searching the index for the concept that you are looking for.
Don't get me wrong, I love everything that technology has given to us as a society. I just believe that sometimes we value things more when we have to work for them.
Getting back to my new neighborhood library. . . I don't know what is in the grand plan for the building, but here is my wish list.
- bean bags in the children's area
- daily newspapers
- a card catalogue
- librarians who help the readers find what they need
- and a fantastic media center. . . today's society needs it all.