As the books go, so goes the library…

…is really more of a question, and an appropriate one for us teaching the younger ones these days.

In a professional meeting today, we discussed kids, technology, and media
and its effects on their ability to focus. Both speakers were Ph.D.s
and working in Bay Area independent schools and focused mainly on child
development and the brain in terms of the effects of multitasking and computing.

Of the many things that were recommended, quiet reflection time was among them.  I found this, of course, helpful as a Quaker to know that practice is both practiCAL and good for the brain in a media-driven world.

One of the strange turns of discussion happened when everyone turned to libraries and books–an old saw to play on the topic of “what is terrible about today’s media.”  One person summed it up directly: “My wife is a librarian, and she just can’t get those kids to stay off the computer games–it drives her nuts!”  As people began lamenting about the death of book reading, one of the presenters actually said, “I can’t remember the last time I read an entire book myself” and she was a teacher who recommended them to her students before using the Internet!

When I think about how busy people can be these days, it’s no wonder reading a book is becoming a lost art–taking time to read 300 pages, depending on what it is, can be a major time investment somewhere between 10-20 hours.  And that means finding that much quiet time, time where we aren’t called to react, participate, or engage with others which, in the city that I live in with three families to keep in touch with and multiple friends in various time zones, means I can be on the computer and “do” more than ever before to stay in touch.

What seems to be missing for those of us lamenting the library and books as “quiet” places is our own loss of time, our struggle to retain our sense of self in an ever-converging confluence of information and communication.  Where will the library stand in this, between being a facilitator of people and knowledge and space for quiet.

2 thoughts on “As the books go, so goes the library…

  1. This is really insightful — I face this struggle almost every night. After the children go to bed, I usually “want” to read a book — and I do read several every year — but then I “just want to catch up” with blogs, or Facebook, or email, and then it’s time for some sleep.

    I can’t imagine what I’d do if we had TV in the house. Yikes!

  2. I always hold in respect and concern the ability of the younger generation to deal with the assault on their media senses when I think of all the options presented to them. And I’m always on the lookout for the convergent technologies and simplify all of these sources merging (I secretly covet the iPhone).

    More importantly, it seems important to keep the focus on \ how long your attention can be maintained, to develop that “muscle” of being lost in a text, or in music for that matter (how long it’s been since I’ve listened to an entire “album” undisturbed!). What a lovely feeling of transcendence, to be above the fray of modern life’s changes and into the deep space of the mind. Fortunately, Quakerism builds this into its practice of faith and help us build that muscle as well!

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