The proposed bond issue generally referred to as “Libraries,” includes the following:
Denver Public Library (various locations) – $14,413,000
Denver Public Library: new branches for West Denver, Stapleton, Green Valley Ranch – $37,470,000
Grand Total: $51,883,000
I’ve been thinking lately about the relevance of libraries. Yeah, I know, sacred cows and all that.
Occasionally, I trek on down to the Central DPL and head for the Western History collection, where I study original sources and utilize the early 20th century technology–microfilm readers–to view newspaper stories from times past. The DPLs microfilm readers are relics, antiques, used and abused and, generally, decrepit. Curiously, however, I do not believe the technology has changed or improved that much. It’s just that the DPLs machines are, well, in need of replacement. Whether replacement of those machines is included in the $14 million line item for DPL is unsure. Suspect it isn’t.
A quote from “Narrative Magazine” (on-line) provides the following:
Young readers growing up into the current technologies won’t be nostalgic for bound books, nor will they be as devoted to the corner bookstore as their parents were. We’re half a generation—ten to twenty years perhaps—away from the point at which the digital experience of reading and writing will be universal, but the technological, commercial, and essential cultural shifts have already taken place.
I don’t disagree.
Then there’s the matter of a library at the Stapleton development at $14.2 million. Apparently, the Mayor’s Infrastructure Task Force did not, originally, recommend the same. But, Michael Hancock, President of City Council–whose district encompasses the Stapleton neighborhood–“…stomped his feet and got it,” or so says Denver Post columnist David Harsanyi.
Comes Councilman Hancock: “If a young person had a homework assignment where they had to do a research paper, if they do not have the ability — which many of them do not today — to get on-line, that’s a problem for them. Not only to get on-line, but to have access to books that are necessary for them to do the proper research.” (Rocky Mountain News, Berny Morson 10/02/07)
The relevance of libraries should, of course, be viewed within the context of what is clearly the generational shift from books you hold in your hand to words, pictures popping up on a screen–an electronic phantasmagoria that mirrors the happy immersion in technological flash/sparkle that has so influenced us all, especially children. Sadly, for me, the intimacy of holding, for example, Dicken’s “Bleak House,” in your hands, turning the pages, savoring the storytelling, grasping the life lessons therein, is something most likely foreign, perhaps irrelevant to generations who do not read books held in their hands. Those children, rather, kill adversaries, run from demons, hop/skip barricades and dangers that are, yes, flashed/sparkled from electronic screens, yes, held in their hands. The natural consequence, of course, becomes the exacerbation of electronic flash/sparkle into the education of children.
So, then, should not libraries–if the passion is to teach the children–move away from the traditional stacks of books, to what I would call “Data Centers,” where computer screens, keyboards, mice (mouses?) capture the imagination of the children in a place and time where the intimacy of a book held in the hands has, sadly, become simply archaic?
As an aside, the few times I’ve visited our nearest library, Woodbury, I’ve noted the prolific business of checking-in and checking-out DVDs; movies not books–phantasies replete with the machinations of world-saving heroic superheroes, otherworld fantastical adventures, witches and cyborg wars. No, not books. Movies.
I know. I know. DPL provides computers to its clients. That’s fine. Would that the DPL immerse itself more intensely in “Data Centers,” where education of the young is the priority; where a child’s passion to learn is tantamount.
One final thought. Three new libraries will require staff and operating funds. “Officials are still working to identify money in the operating budget to staff and run the new buildings if the issue passes, said City Librarian Shirley Amore.” (RMN, Berny Morson, 10/02/07) More infrastructure, more money. More infrastructure, more money.
“The road goes on forever, and the party never ends.”