Friday, March 27, 2009

The Cranky Lady Speaks!

Today I was working in my Random University library. They are now starting to box up shelves and shelves of reference materials – bound journals, archived magazines, technical dictionaries and the like – and send them to a central consortium storage place. You will still be able to access the materials by requesting them through the college library and there is an easy method to do so though the college computer system.

However, seeing all of the volumes being put onto carts and taken away makes me incredibly sad. One of my favorite pastimes in libraries is walking randomly through the stacks, pulling down books or topics that look interesting at the moment, and finding very surprising, fascinating bits of information. For example, one day in Ye Olde Colonial College’s stacks I found a series of bound women’s magazines from the 1940’s through the 1980’s. To look through all those volumes and see the ads and fashions of yesteryear, all of the articles of housewife-y information and advice, was quite a treat. Another time, I was wandering though and started reading old business magazines, marveling at the predictions and business practices from decades ago.

I know that in writing this I sound incredibly old fashioned, like someone nostalgic for the good old days, not sufficiently appreciative of the current technologies that allow people to access any information from anywhere. Well, I *am* appreciative – especially as a student and a researcher of sorts – but as someone who is always interested in a wide range of topics, and who sometimes depends on random connections to spark creativity, I think that the disappearance of the physical books from the scene can be considered tragic.

On another blog, someone was talking about how, as a kid, he would pull random books down from his parents’ shelves and read them as they struck his fancy. If we all have kindles or e-readers, will that moment of random discovery ever happen? Will everything in the future have to be purposefully sought out? What does this mean for future generations? I mean, I know that Wikipedia has a "random" function, but that supposes that you are constantly connected to a computer. I prefer not to spend huge amounts of time staring at a screen, and a tiny one at that! (And gee, can you tell that from my sucky posting these days?)

I also wonder why one technology has to push out another so quickly. I'd much rather continue to have choices of how I'd like my information, but it seems that especially in the newspaper realm those choices are being made for me, even though I'm willing to actually pay for the format I prefer.

These are some of the things that occupy my brain these days. Do you agree? Or do you think I need to adjust my tinfoil hat? Inquiring minds want to know . . .


Anonymous said...

I need tangible books. I have a erious limit on what I can stand to read on a screen, and don't want to rely on electricity or batteries to be able to read. You can't curl up with a good e-reader the way you can with a book.

Merci said...

Ditto. I have to stare at a computer screen most of the day, and it really bothers my eyes. Anytime I can switch to printed materials, I am thankful. I love books and magazines, and I cannot fathom giving them up.

Virginia Gal said...

I am with you, I need hard books in my hand and I too love to go down the aisles at my local library just to see what catches my eye, the moment of random discovery is fantastic!

mommanator said...

I am not really a reader, as all must know by now, but I do lovee to go to the Library. Esp, take the grands- they love it, pick up books for 'us' to read.
We should continue with them.
We are all to often bombarded by the computer.
We should start kiddos reading early, to develop the love of it