Today after work, I ran a bunch of errands. This included a trip to the "library" they just put in by my house. I gave library extra punctuation not as a "hey, you like English, I like English, here's a free set of quotation marks" gesture, but as a way to tell you all I don't actually consider it a library. I went in hoping to find Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and/or Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Instead, I found half the library devoted to children's books and movies (which is fine. I like children and think they are entitled to a section. Maybe not half the library, but you know. Something.), one quarter devoted to non-children's movies, and the remaining quarter hosting an odd sampling of books - none of which were "classics."
Granted, it's a tiny library. I don't expect the NYPL here. But still - it was weird that half the library wasn't even books, it was movies, and that nothing in there had a copyright date prior to 2001. Perhaps, though, this is the library of the 21st century - one where there's more psychobabble than an Oprah marathon, and it's more Blockbuster and daycare center than a home for tomes.
True, the world is changing. I too am guilty of spending more time on the computer, and less time with a book in my hands (even now, I'm blogging instead of finishing Crime and Punishment). At the same time though, I hate to turn the famous Princess Bride quotation "When I was your age, television was called books!" on its head. Dr. David Nobel, founder of "The Summit" ministries, says, "If you want to be a leader, you have to be a reader." If he's right, this new library is raising up a generation of followers. Americans today can have long discussions about their feelings, but can't analyze events. They can compute data and project numbers, but they can't process philosophy. They can create multimillion-dollar ad campaigns, but struggle to appreciate a work of art. I am certainly guilty of all these things.
However, for America to remain a world power, we must do both. Clearly, times have changed, and having your secretary type your memos will both cost you time, and get you slapped with some sort of anti-chauvinist lawsuit from the ACLU. As our technology moves down the road, though, we cannot lose the finer things in life - literature, art, music, creativity, humor. In fact, when we embrace our creative, cultured sides, our computations tend to come out better as a result. In other words, we could have more technological breakthroughs if we spent more time in other areas. We could create more wealth by changing the way we think. After all, the renaissance had da Vinci - not a touchscreen. Big ideas should be investigated not only to maintain our humanity, but also because they could have serious economic benefits. Don't believe me? Check out the going rate for a van Gogh these days.
Ironically, our libraries seems to be heading towards an automated, uncritical lifestyle. Aldous Huxley warned against a similar lifestyle in Brave New World. But then, you would have to read it to defend against it.
I went to the future in:
Black pencil skirt, beige top with open back, black & silver hanging hoops, and zebra stilettos with red buckles.