Dead tree libraries and exploratory learning

Wifey and I were driving in the car yesterday morning when the thought hit me: will I ever get to take my kids to a real library with dead-tree books? Somewhere in the background, this question was made starker by the recent introduction of one Kindle DX device into the household.

But back to the question about kids and library trips, mom used to take my brother and I to the library when we were young.

My most distinct memory of the whole experience was how sick I’d feel right before we made a trip to the library because I’d misplaced the soon overdue books we’re needing to return. It was then in my early years, I learned that being stressed out is a luxury one cannot afford when the the car engine’s started and the whole family is waiting in the driveway. I also learned that if you’re planning on hoarding lots of stuff, they should ideally be digital and indexable.

But I digress. My second distinct memory is that of the state library we would frequent. Upon entrance, it had two clearly defined section: a section for children, and a section for grown-ups. You could tell which was which by the way spaces were furnished, and how high the bookshelves stood, but you could also tell because the kids’ section smelled like children. I’d always try to steal a whiff from the grown-up section: the smell of grown-up knowledge and wisdom.

The only times I got to enter the grown-up section were when we were about to leave. Mom would send me to get dad who was busy looking up some motorcycle manual, or something about stock markets, or something about computers. Oh, what joy for me – shelves taller than the eye could see, amber coloured monochromatic computer screens to look up books, and… THEY HAD AN UPSTAIRS: double delight!

I would take my time to browse through the shelves as though I were looking for something, while hoping for the day I could understand what lay behind the incredibly serious looking covers with photo realistic pictures and titles I couldn’t pronounce.

Those trips to the library gave me something to look forward to. The whiff “knowledgeable” adulthood ever so gently nudged me to grow up a little quicker, if for nothing other than to be able to reach for the higher shelves.

I fear my kids may not have this experience. Their earliest recollections of knowledge repositories may very well begin a 4-coloured logotype, a blinking text cursor, and a button that says “Search”. What’s a seven-year-old to type in the box? How’s a child going to search for something that he/she doesn’t even know exist? And how’s a child to defend him/herself from the every increasing ubiquity of attention grabbing advertisements that seek to colour his/her mind for their commercial purposes.

I sure hope we don’t screw it up too badly for them.

One Reply to “Dead tree libraries and exploratory learning”

  1. Mmmm love it. Surreal memories of going up a hill in Shah Alam to an old public library with Sesame St books. Similar sentiments with the adult/kids section growing up visiting the Box Hill library as well. Was a crazy flash back when I started studying there again in Year 12 for final exams.

Comments are closed.