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Some reading from the last few days… February 16, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.
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I read a few noteworthy articles this week. The first from the New York Times asks the question, “Do School Libraries Need Books?” Several librarians and others weigh in on the subject.

http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/10/do-school-libraries-need-books/

Among the experts who comment on the future of books in libraries was Nicholas Carr, the author of The Big Switch: Rewiring the World from Edison to Google. His new book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, is expected to come out in June. I have subscribed to Mr. Carr’s “Rough Type” blog: http://www.roughtype.com/  

The most interesting article I read all week was also written by Mr. Carr. It’s from the July/August 2008 edition of The Atlantic and its title is, “Is Google Making Us Stupid.”   http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google 

The article proposes that the instant gratification and “small bites” of information provided by many online information tools is rendering it more difficult for many people of all ages to sustain their attention long enough to read and process larger chunks of information – such as the large chunks of information stored in what we call books. The arguments are plausible, and frighteningly, I identify with the voices of those who report that their long-term engagement with information tools renders them too impatient or simply too tired to read books. As a book lover I fully understand that many stories and concepts just can’t be conveyed well unless a reader chews on the hundreds of pages it takes to fully communicate those stories or concepts.

What does this mean for me as I plunge forward into dedicating more of my time to understanding and using more information tools? LIMITS! I have to set limits for myself to avoid exhausting my time and energy. I must leave time for books. I am a librarian, and I became a librarian because I accurately predicted that an inevitable result of being surrounded by books is that I would read more of them!

What does this mean for me as an educator? I suppose it means that teachers, parents, and other caregivers must be made aware of the importance of setting limits for their students (and themselves!) when it comes to information tools. This might be tough to pull off. After all, I spend much of my time promoting the efficient, ethical use of information tools. How do I convey my concerns and suggest precautions without sending a mixed message? Further, gadgets have surpassed the television as the best babysitter ever! Just cutting the cord is not a realistic or advisable option. But setting and enforcing limits and/or providing close supervision is a lot of work! And a lot of work, is, well, a lot work!

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