Didn’t I just…?

Steven is right, I’ve been feeling a little feisty lately. There are several reasons that I can think of for that. Part of it is that I’ve had more time to read lately and the things I’ve been reading have been getting my hackles up. So if I come off as a buzz-kill in the coming week or two, feel free to ignore me, write scathing and inflammatory comments, send me key lime cake, or whatever you deem necessary.

Anyway, Steven linked to a WSJ article today while I simultaneously received an email from my Dad who forwarded the same link “in light of” my recent blog post. (Better to read it sooner rather than later, or you’ll have to wait until you can find it on EBSCO)

The main thrust of this short piece is that a) we’re too materialistic to borrow material (we would rather buy it) and b) people are using the internet instead of the library.

I still think that the age disparity that Zaslow talks about in his article is more a function of a fundamental culture shift in our society rather than due to a set of tangible culprits (like the internet and rampant materialism). As a group, we’re actually fairly adept at negotiating the net. The ability to move about in that realm is not our problem. Our problem is that we haven’t come up with a cohesive strategy to prove our worth to society. Zaslow writes:

It’s true that older Internet-phobes are missing out on [the internet]. But many tech-savvy kids never experience the library as a place for serendipitous discovery. “The library is about delayed gratification,” says Dr. Levine. “It’s about browsing through shelves of biographies. ‘Do I want Jackie Robinson? Franklin Roosevelt? What will I do when I grow up?’ The library slows you down and makes you think.”

I’m afraid to say that delayed gratification is not something we can sell and traditional notions of “attention” have been shattered–we are no longer entitled to have our youth “pay” attention. We need to earn their attention. The sooner we realize that, the better. I’ve often thought (and I’m sure I’m not alone) that the future of libraries rest in the hands of our children’s librarians. It’s actually quite poignant how that army of burden has been routed to a group of librarians who probably never considered that they would be given that kind of responsibility.

Of course that doesn’t mean we discount everyone else. It simply means that we have to indoctrinate our youth with a new sense of what the library is, what it does, and what it’s there for. And that will be a radically different set of virtues than the ones our parents enjoyed.

About this entry