Monday, July 23, 2012

Heat Advisory

Another heat advisory, another day in the library.  Your Kindle app won't get you a quiet air-conditioned workspace with free WiFi. . . though, as we library advocates are quick to point out, you can use your Kindle or other e-reader to borrow library books, and, if you have the Kindle Fire or the Nook Color, to access the library's free WiFi. 

I actually have a semi-quiet workspace, because my quest for electricity has me in the young adult corner of the youth space, and I can hear the clunk of blocks from the play corner.  Unusually enough, I have earphones with me, so I could log into iTunes and go totally 21st century, but I'm okay with people playing and reading aloud -- and even talking about books! 

Not quite unrelated picture of the day -- this is one of the book boxes that the United States Lighthouse Service sent to the Lighthouse Keepers.  Since Keepers were frequently moved to different locations, all the boxes were numbered, and a librarian somewhere made sure that people did not get the same box twice.

Friends of Rock Island State Park
Wisconsin Department of  Natural Resources: Rock Island State Park

Surrounded by books -- and knowing I already have too many checked out -- I have a lot of both respect for the librarians and sympathy for the Lighthouse Keepers and their families.  The lighthouse on Rock Island is restored to 1910 and is a lovely, airy space, even on a very hot July day.  It doesn't take much imagination though, to think that it might not have been quite so pleasant for a family of 10 in February, though they may have been able to move to larger Washington Island when the shipping lanes closed for the winter.  Still, I'm sure they looked forward to their boxes of books.

Lighthouses are mostly automated, now, and books are becoming so.  How does that change our experience of books and reading?  Race car driver Danica Patrick was recently advised by her fans [on Twitter, of course] that if she used an e-reader, no one would know that she was reading recent bestseller Fifty Shades of Grey.

She said:
"I'm holding the book, baby," she said. "I like to turn the pages. It's the same reason I like to take a cork out of a bottle of wine. It's romantic. I like to turn the pages and I like to see how far I am, and then I look over at my husband and I say, 'Look, honey, see how far I am?'
"I finished the 514 pages that were in that first book. It's sad I even know that, but it felt like a victory for me."For Danica Patrick, 50 Shades of Red (ESPN W)

I was on vacation with a friend who said she liked big bookmarks, because it was easy to see her place. I don't know if people looking at the page numbers of their e-readers feel the same way or not.  I read print books, but I do most of my news and sports reading on my phone or computer -- though I still have the New York Times on Sunday and Sports Illustrated and the New Yorker delivered to my house.  I like holding them in my hand.  But am I just fond of a relic from the past?  How much value does that "romantic" feeling Ms. Patrick described have, when e-books and boxes of wine are cheaper to produce?   Has anyone done the math on the environmental footprint of the electricity needed for e-reading (across all platforms) vs. the cost of printing, distributing and recycling print materials?

More important to my mind, has anyone done any brain research to see if we process electronic information differently?  And is that difference important?  I write non-fiction of all kinds -- this blog, work reports, curriculum plans, email, cover letters, resumes -- at the computer.  I learned, as a journalism student in a high school with manual typewriters, to compose at the typewriter,  and was perfectly trained for the transition to computers, which I have used throughout my working life.  However, I write fiction and poetry in longhand, and make corrections even on poems I've typed up on printed copies of the poem, with a pen, not on the computer.

Is it habit?  personal preference?  or does the physical medium make a difference?

Should we find out, before we decide to no longer teach handwriting in our schools?
Cursive out of Common Core Standards
Schools Debate Handwriting

It is easy for me to see the questions -- the answers are more difficult.  However, shouldn't we be questioning everything we do -- from changing our reading habits to changing our cultural institutions to global warming?  And shouldn't we find a way to return to civilized debate and scientific exploration rather than screaming at each other about issues too important and too complex to be reduced to sound bites or bytes?

The upside of the drought here in northeastern Wisconsin has been really beautiful, sunny days -- more than warm enough to go swimming, which is unusual. Of course, the water has to be clean enough to swim in, which is not true everyday.  So I would also like to ask some questions about xeriscaping, factory farming, and other threats to the Great Lakes.
Wisconsin Beach Health
Natural Landscaping University of Wisconsin Press (print or e-book)


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I need Pearce to make me one of those lighthouse bookboxes.


Lakeshore Librarian said...

WebJunction is a community of practice, primarily for public libraries.

There are lots of good blogs:

The Unquiet Librarian

From the Bell Tower

The never ending search

Fortune Cookie

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.
Frank Zappa