Number of years in college? Three and a bit. Number of times in library? Two. One for an induction day and one for a presentation on how to use the library. On both occasions i had no choice but to attend. That’s what i think of libraries…. those stats tell you all you need to know about my opinion on libraries… but i’ll elaborate anyway…
Back in my day…
In secondary school, we’d have the odd project to do. Write on a topic, do a bit of research, get references etc… this wasn’t long ago either. 4-10 years ago. Web only research? You must be joking. The internet wasn’t an acceptable research tool. Teachers wanted magazines, books, papers – the tried and tested stuff. Old school.
“Go home and watch the news – write an article on xyz” – i can remember tasks like that. The internet was never mentioned. It was as if it didn’t exist. There was no broadband (up until the mid naughties) and the internet existed for booking ryanair flights or playing games. It wasn’t taken seriously as an education ‘weapon’.
Teachers didn’t have to say “i don’t respect the internet” – you could tell by the fact they completely ignored it and showed zero enthusiasm for anything online. Mind you, ratemyteachers.ie ruffled a few feathers when it first came on the scene 🙂 They certainly took notice of that site once they realized reputation was at stake and students had the power to publish anything they wanted.
Reversal of roles
Now, i have the exact same attitude towards libraries. I don’t have time for them. And i’m confident libraries aren’t going to explode and revolutionize the way we work and live over the next 10 years, so my attitude is future proof, it won’t change 🙂 I hate reading books and i hate books in general. They’re clutter of the higher order. Easy to read? Easier to read than an ebook? Personally i’d challenge that. Maybe it’s just me but i tend to read rapidly and store a few main points in my head whilst disposing of the padded rubbish. I skip the intro, the ‘i dedicate this book to’ page, the blank pages, the copyright notices… i go straight to the contents, look at the page number and get stuck in.
With an ebook, or just by googling something, I’M in control of what i search for. There is no waffle – i’m a good enough searcher, i get what i want instantly. And that point is crucial – being a good searcher, knowing how to search, knowing how to filter. I’ve said it before but i think we need be taught how to search and how to filter information rapidly. I’ve just taught myself over the years but it’s amazing how slow some people can be at retrieving information or not being able to distinguish between official / trusted websites and unofficial / untrusted ones.
Look at the suckers who get stung by scam emails or hand over details on dodgy looking websites. Or who click on the ‘i’m a big facebook virus, click on me’ links. There’s millions of people out there who can’t distinguish between trusted and untrusted online. And yet still there’s nothing being done about it… no education in schools to the best of my knowledge.
That’s the one thing books and libraries have going for them, they’re trusted. You won’t get virus in them, you won’t get distracted. But if you’re disciplined enough and know how to search online, you’ll probably be able to get more information online than in a book in a faster amount of time too.
Libraries nearing death?
The internet is a great place to hunt for information, not such a great place to absorb information – there’s just too much. With a book, you know the general topic and if you’re interested in it, you’ll learn something. If you search for that same topic online, you’ll be overwhelmed with info and won’t have the patience and time to filter it or distinguish between fact, fiction, opinions etc… it’s still very muddled and random.
But again, i do believe things can only get better. And being able to ‘hunt’ is a skill in itself, a very important skill which i think we haven’t realized is a necessary one to work and learn online. Google does a great job of gathering for us, but humans still need to be able to hunt.
Libraries will probably die out eventually… we just need more ipad like inventions to help kill them. For me, in 2010, libraries are stone age technology. They can’t offer me anything only a quiet place to study and a clam environment. But in 2010, that environment is unnatural for me, i learn and work better in a casual environment. I’m used to noise. I regard the library setting as a very formal environment. If it were a restaurant, it would be black tie only. The internet is more ‘pub food’ / ‘fast food’.