Saturday, February 27, 2010


My lack of a computer since early February has prompted me to go to the local library on a somewhat frequent basis. While I freely admit that I use the library mostly for computer usage, I've been exposed to a number of local public library branches recently, and I am quite impressed. Libraries are trying very hard to keep up with the times, which are moving at the speed of light. (I saw a two year old in the supermarket yesterday, "using" a iPod. I do not know if he really knew what he was doing, but he was clearly "paging" through the iPod screens and enjoying the colorful photos while dad was otherwise distracted searching the shelves. I am sure that the two year old knew more about using an iPod than I do.)

Libraries are no longer the hush-hush places of my youth, where you could look up reference material not available at home, or check out an actual hard copy novel. They have become gathering places, for story-telling for pre-schoolers, for talks by best selling authors, for advice for seniors (Tax Tips and Tax Paperwork Organization, or How to Make your Home Safe for Seniors), as a gathering place for middle school students after the school day is over, for high school seniors to check their Facebook accounts (or to do the much less popular homework research) when the home computer is temporarily "down". At the local branch library where I am typing up this post, even the large children's section has four computers for the kids to use. This branch library even has a snack center section. (Food of any kind in the library would have been taboo in the days of my youth.) Most libraries have have a large selection of DVDs and CDs. In fact, books seem to take up a relatively small part of the physical space these days, at least in comparison to days of yore.

The changes amaze me. I suppose I shouldn't be amazed, after seeing the commercial where the four year old girl enhances a photo of multi-hued tropical fish and then prints it out, all in a few seconds, but I am still amazed. The younger generation seems to soak up technology like a dry, thirsty sponge. The lightning speed of change makes me feel not old, but left behind, like the kid in elementary school who couldn't quite keep up with the rest of the class. If I can't keep up with the younger generation, I will eventually become a technology dinosaur. However, libraries are trying very hard not to become fossilized institutions of the past. While sometimes I yearn for the libraries of my childhood, with aisle after aisle of floor-to-ceiling shelving, bulging with hard cover books and the musty-book-smell that only hundreds of well-read hard cover books congregating together in one place can make, I understand that modern day libraries must keep up with the times, or face extinction. I laud their efforts and applaud their successes.

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