Monday, December 26, 2005

1942 Digging deep, piling high

Repacking boxes is just no fun. My back hurts and I think I pulled a muscle. I'll sit and write for a few moments--a blogrest. I keep finding things I'd forgotten about, but once I find them, I think I should reread them--especially if I wrote it. With lunch today I read an article by Utley (Francis Lee): "The one hundred and three names of Noah’s wife," Speculum 16, 1941, pp. 426–52. I'd printed it out from JSTOR in 1999, read it, filed it with unrelated stuff, and found it today.

Then I came across 8 pages (there was more but can't find it) I wrote in 1990 after attending a program on libraries and literacy. It was in preparation for the 1991 White House Conference on libraries and literacy. In 1990 I was still a left of center liberal and a Democrat, but I was obviously puzzled that librarians, with all they had to do, were taking on the responsibility for literacy, which clearly is a job that has been assigned to the schools. Reading through it, I see not much has changed--except computers and internet access. Now librarians teach the public computer literacy.

"Librarians have created every imaginable network, coalition, association, and service organization to lure people into their libraries, but they haven't been able to keep libraries in the schools, not even with all the dues we pay. We can't even get a librarian appointed as the Librarian of Congress."

"On October 1 (1990) the Wall Street Journal reported on the drop in literacy among school age children--even those whose mothers had spent hours reading to them as pre-schoolers. Children are too busy to read because of all their outside activities, no one converses with them, and they have developed two minute attention spans through TV and videos, concluded the article. So what is my public library offering this week? Four different programs using movies, three for pre-schoolers and one for elementary age, and three different craft programs for Halloween. Librarians didn't know how to lick the competition for children's time and attention, so they joined the opposition."

"One of my concerns as an academic librarian is not that my students are illiterate, in the sense they can't read, but they don't seem to be book literate. I use our Closed Reserve material heavily for answering reference questions. For example, I pull off a book on feline medicine to answer a question on anesthesia and hand it to the student. She eagerly begins leafing through it. I gently stop her. "Here, let me show you how to use this. Here is the index; look up the surgical technique or the name of the anesthetic. Here is the table of contents; it will show you how the book is arranged. See these little numbers? They will refer you to more things you can read at the end of every chapter." And I am surprised each and every time I hear myself explaining to a college graduate how a book is put together."

". . .libraries will be killed off too if they don't put the brakes on seeing themselves as the social change agent for the nation, believing: they can correct what the churches did wrong; they can teach what the schools didn't; they can prevent what the social workers missed; and stop what the government couldn't. . . Librarians will do more good in the long run if they leave Mapplethorp to the cultural arts commissions and instead see to it that a child can check out material on photography to become the best photographer she can be."

I was leaving the fold and didn't even know it!

1991 White House Conference on Library and Information Services

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