Restore the noble purpose of libraries

David Stanley pointed me to this thoughtful essay.

Modern librarians who prioritize information over knowledge
perpetuate a distraction from the real purpose of a library. A library
facilitates the patient gathering of knowledge – whose acquisition is
superior to almost every other endeavor. Religions have adapted to
technology for the most part without being destroyed by it, so why
can’t libraries? It might not be too late.

Information on the Internet may come across as
authoritative, but much of it is one giant Ponzi scheme, especially in
the hands of the young, where it can become a counterfeit for the
reading and memorization that true learning requires. Scholars are made
through the quiet study of one chapter at a time. For that we need
silence. We need to restore an appreciation for the close study of
words.–William H. Wisner, Christian Science Monitor

One thought on “Restore the noble purpose of libraries

  1. Accidental Pedagogy politely took to task an anonymous blogger who called this essay “thoughtful.”
    Here’s what I posted in reply:

    I’ll out myself on this one… I called it thoughtful because it presented a point of view that has lots of traction.
    In journalism, it’s the mark of a good editor to give a voice to stakeholders on many sides of an issue. Just because you find this editorial in the Christian Science Monitor doesn’t mean that the editors agree with it. Incidentally, the CSM recently discontinued its print publication, converting to an all-online outfit, so it’s likely that this editorial was part of a conscious effort to encourage exploration and debate.
    As to the content of the essay… It is frustrating to see how this essay romanticizes the silent contemplation of old technology romanticized, while abstracting to annoying sound effects the tools that 21C students use so frequently in their social lives. Wisner imagines a library for patrons who don’t exist, but he makes a good historical case for that library, and his essay will likely be a good discussion prompt if I should use it when I teach a class this spring on the history and future of the book.
    A few months ago, a senior faculty asked members of a committee to think of the word “technology” and then call out the first thing that comes to mind…
    I called out “play” and “game” and “learn,” while others called out things like “fear” and “paralysis” and “confusion”.
    The essay helped me to understand the point of view of those colleagues who think of technology as a soul-draining chore, as well as students who don’t fit the plugged-in demographic, who may feel threatened when I advocate technology.
    I’m glad your post gave me the chance to spell out my thoughts in more detail.

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