Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

12.19.2006

Closing the Circuit

In case you like circuitous link chains . . .

In the comments she said she almost didn't link me because I'm chair of the video game committee and might not want to be included in her arguments. Here's what I wrote in response:

Oh, I don’t mind that you linked me into this argument. I may not agree with everything you say, but I can appreciate your viewpoint. It’s a discussion I’ve had with my friends, in fact, specifically about the idea of video games in libraries (which is kind of funny since the two most opposed to the idea are gamers and I’m not). In my mind it goes back to the old argument of whether the library should have fiction or not. Do we have purely educational content, or is our mission a bit broader than that? Because recreational reading—while it serves many other purposes including escapism—is also educational; the very act of reading improves reading ability, regardless of content. If you decide to have books that are both educational and recreational, then it only makes sense to be consistent in your other formats: literary journals and popular magazines; documentaries and popular films; Internet access for research and for email, etc. It’s important to maintain a balance, but there is room for both. Many of the arguments for video games fall into the same realm. I won’t go into all of it here, but, just like recreational reading, there is a mounting pool of evidence that the process of gaming has educational value on top of its enjoyment.

More important than that argument, though, is the role of the public library as a community gathering space. We provide public meeting rooms for free, open forums. Storytimes are important early literacy programs, but they also provide socialization for the little ones and social contact for stay-at-home parents and caregivers. We have large print collections that seniors need for poor eyesight, but many of them come for the company as much as the reading. There are few public institutions that serve this role of connection place for the community. Gaming is one relevant way for teens to connect at the library. Yes, we do hope it brings more of them through the door, but we are also hoping to meet their legitimate needs and the rationale is broader than that simple fact. My particular system’s vision words are: “Learn, Explore, Enjoy, Create, Connect.” Perhaps we’re guilty of trying to be all things to all people, but our mission is broader than simply being an educational institution and we try to find a balance of all aspects of that vision. If that’s something you don’t support, then you don’t.

But we do seem to be a reflection of the community’s general desires. In reference to the statement that no one uses public libraries: about 80% of the residents in our community have cards; circulation is already massive for our population size and increasing every year; we just scored the highest satisfaction rate (91%) among all government services in the community; and we generally get a lot of usage and community support. That’s why I made the observation. Our people seem to like us and what we do for them, so what does that say about them and what they want us to be?

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