Archive for October, 2007

I’ve been reading a lot about these noisy libraries lately, where people aren’t reading or studying, but are instead playing Dance Dance Revolution, watching movies, and coming for their latest books-on-tape fix. To be honest, I have yet to find myself in a noisy library. Even in the newly redesigned Simmons library (where I go to school), where there is a floor specifically designated as a non-quiet zone, it is still pretty quiet. Maybe that’s just because I’m not hitting up Guitar Hero night.

I’m not going to say that I think libraries are moving in the wrong direction. I understand the need to pull patrons back in, especially when libraries are forced to cut back hours or close altogether due to budget cuts, budget cuts that happen because the tax-paying community doesn’t see any reason to fund them. If you can find a way to bring patrons back, that is terrific. Beyond that, even, I think it’s important that libraries are becoming public social spaces. Our country is in dire need of public social spaces, when there is so little public land left and the only gathering spaces left for people are malls, when even presumed public parks can be copyrighted. I’m very much in favor of the whole “library as space” idea.

I guess there were just a few minor points in Anna Badkhen’s Boston Globe article, “Libraries move with the times, discover niches,” that struck a nerve. Badkhen points out that statistic that only one in four American adults have read a book in the last year. But nowhere in this article is there mention of what libraries are doing to encourage book reading. In fact, one librarian says that they are “stretching the definition of reading,” and that they consider listening to audio books reading. Dude, it’s not. I’m sorry. It’s not reading. When libraries are telling people that it’s ok if they don’t read as long as they listen to a few audio books, part of my soul dies a little bit.

So you know what? Fine, entice people into the library with free movies and dinner and video games and DVD rentals. Those are all great things. Encourage people in your community to make use of the library space in social ways. But damn it, encourage them to read, too! And I mean real books! Start conversations about literacy and why it’s important. Make sure that some of those events you’re drawing people into the library with involve books, and for good measure, start some conversations about the important political and social issues in your community, too. If libraries are going to operate as public spaces, maybe they can also bring civic involvement back to communities. Video games are not the end point, right?

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The Push and the Pull

Now that I’m back in school, and actually have things to do with my time, I’ve been forced to come to grips with, how shall I say this, a little flip-floppy aspect of my character. I guess I’ve always known this part of myself, but for the last six years, it was easy for me to ignore because there was really nothing for me to be that motivated about. But now? Now, it’s causing some problems. Because it’s really hard to be a super excellent student when you’re only feeling ambitious on a part-time basis. I am my own biggest distraction.

There are days when I am seriously on the ball. I am motivated and energized. Everything on the to do list gets checked off, and I starting thinking up new plans, new involvements, new projects. I feel pure and healthy and super duper smart and I think, “Man, I am going to get the greatest job when I’m out of library school, and I’m just going to love it! I’ll work so hard and do excellent things in the world! I am awesome!” And then some mornings I wake up and I am just tired. My brain feels fuzzy and unfocused and all those great projects are forgotten, or just seem, really, kind of pointless. I don’t want to write or create or make any kind of comments in class whatsoever. I can feel myself just sliding into mediocrity, and on those days, I don’t even care.

I don’t really understand what causes these weird swings in my sense of purpose and ambition. I suppose some people might say I should talk to a therapist or something like that, but that’s not really my style. I think there are probably a ton of factors that go into it, including when I last got to the gym, how well I’ve been eating, how much time I’ve been spending at the pub, et cetera. It seems even kind of a silly thing to talk about: So what? I have some bad days. It’s just that it feels so wildly moody, so weirdly binary, and that, seriously, it is hard to be an engaged and involved and accomplished student when you feel so overwhelmed by things that you just stop caring for a day or two. I wonder sometimes perhaps if I was better organized or managed my time better, it would be easier to maintain my motivation. Or, I wonder if everyone experiences this, and it’s just a fact of life. Some days are just not as bright and shiny as others.

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So, wow. Last week was really, really frustrating. I don’t remember the last time I was in a bad mood for that many days in a row. And why? School got very, very challenging. And that made me feel very stupid, because it didn’t seem like it was challenging to anyone else.

My parents know this well: When I am faced with something I’m not immediately good at, it is usually my first inclination to give up and walk away. It’s a terrible habit and I feel that I’ve spent a lot of my adult life fighting the quitter instinct. And as I realized this week, I’ve also spent a lot of the past six years avoiding things I’m not immediately good at. I haven’t yet figured out how I did it, but suffice to say I spent the last six years thinking, “Wow, I’m smart.” And suddenly, I’m faced with things that are kind of hard, things I didn’t expect to be hard at all. I thought I’d sail through this library science thing, because, wow, I’m so smart, right?


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