To the Editor:
Kathy Ishizuka hit a nerve when she wrote “…we’ve got bigger fish to fry than a nostalgia for wood-pulp pages” (“SLJ‘s Top Ten 2011: Technology”). Just because the bandwagon is electronic, doesn’t mean I should throw away everything I like and value about printed materials to jump on it, and just because I feel some nostalgia for books doesn’t mean their usefulness is bygone.
I am a supporter of new technology that is well thought-out, useful, practical and economical. I promote technology, and am in the process of buying more and more electronic books, Playaways and downloadable CD’s for our library. I appreciate the fact that technology has made information and communication available to everyone in a way that the printed page cannot. I also am impressed and thankful for the way the new technology has improved books—particularly the graphic layout and visual aspects of them. I constantly look for ways to help our students and staff use the Internet resources and available technology more effectively and collaboratively. Personally, I greatly enjoy doing my work with computers, and choose to use them at home as well as at school, for most of my correspondence, bill-paying, gaming, writing, taking classes, and many other functions. I want kids to grow up as readers, and if they prefer nooks and kindles and ipads to read on, that’s great, I’ll supply and support them.
On the other hand, every day I see students who do better sitting at a table with a book than sitting at a computer staring at a scrolling screen. It’s as if they get mesmerized by it and aren’t even reading the words anymore. Many students actually learn and produce more focusing on a good printed book. Also, when I want information in depth, I find it better in books where someone else has done the research and put it together in a manageable format for me, rather than having to search all over the Internet for it myself. Often the Internet sites don’t go into depth, and repeat information from one site to another. Some of them have wonderful visual media (who can resist watching animals in the wild from a live webcam!), however many do not have the graphics and visuals that books today have.
If a book is available electronically, that may be the answer, however I personally prefer reading material in printed book form than on any electronic device I’ve tried. This may be partly nostalgia and partly personal preference; I like the way books look and smell and feel to the touch, and they are so much easier on my dry, sensitive eyes. There is nothing in the world for me like curling up in a blanket on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a good book, or lounging out in the sun with a tall glass of iced tea and a good book. I have bookcases in every room of my house and love being surrounded by them; they are like old friends. There is a resonance with them, perhaps because they are made with mostly natural materials, that simply doesn’t exist for me with metal and plastic devices, and that connection is part of the wonder and awe I feel at being able to read what others have written and go where they have imagined —it’s almost like getting inside of their minds. When the power went out last winter for an extended period of time, my battery-powered phone was the only electronic in my house that worked —but I didn’t care, because I could still read by candlelight. If this is nostalgia, that’s OK, there is room in the world for it.
My love of actual books does not interfere with my ability to see value in electronic devices and to champion ways for our students and staff to use them effectively. Just as I feel a connection to authors and ideas through books, I also feel a connection to people through texting that didn’t exist before when correspondence took so long. Typing this email, it is almost as if my brain is connected to the keyboard and my thoughts are flying out through my fingers —that is so much better than the past when I was slowed down by writing with a pencil or typing on a typewriter —how awkward that was! Nonetheless, as long as there are people like me who love and value “wood-pulp pages,” we need to respect that way of reading as well as the newer electronic ways. They all have their time and place.
Omro MS/HS Library Media Specialist