I'm a librarian in an independent Washington area school. We're doing all the right things. Our class sizes are small. Most graduating seniors gain admission to their college of choice. The facilities are first-rate.
Yet from my vantage point at the reference desk, something is amiss. The books in the library stacks are gathering dust.
That's happening, of course, because the kids are spending their time on the internet rather than perusing dusty old books. But that doesn't worry anyone but the fuddy-duddy technophobes, right? The rest of us know the internet is an indispensible tool for collecting and sorting information. The internet is good for kids because it teaches them how and where to find out everything they want to know. Right?
Well, sure. But all the knowledge in the world won't improve anyone's quality of life if it's not handled with wisdom and imagination, and that's where novels come in.
Reading quality fiction stimulates my imagination and provokes me to examine and refine my personal values. A good movie can do that, too, but not nearly as well because it doesn't last as long or pull me in as deeply as a book does. The same can be said about certain internet conversations and websites; by themselves, they're just not enough. I need good books.
Mr. Washington continues:
Typically, many people in my line of work no longer have the title of librarian. They are called media and information specialists, or sometimes librarian technologists. The buzzword in the trade is "information literacy," a misnomer, because what it is really about is mastering computer skills, not promoting a love of reading and books.
Virtually all of the world's store of knowledge can now be accessed by logging on to the internet, and that's wonderful. But well-informed people aren't necessarily wise people. Or creative people. Or compassionate people.
Unless they also read good books.
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