So, I want to thank Mighty Ponygirl for writing this post about libraries in my home state providing access to video games. It's a brief article, but very interesting. Some of the local libraries have started keeping video games as a part of their collections, and have even begun hosting competitions for games like Guitar Hero.
The same article appears in the Houston Chronicle, but allows comments. Which, as you might imagine, are less than enthusiastic. Of course, there's the manditory "what about people who go to the library for peace and quiet?" comment. I have to wonder when the last time someone who makes a comment like that was actually at a library. Many libraries have: computer and internet access, televisions with movie viewing, children's play areas, music listening stations, etc. None of those things have stopped the library from also having plenty of space for people who are looking for peace and quiet. Many libraries have specific rooms set up to allow for groups to meet or for allowing people to view videos or listen to music.
My favorite comment is probably the third one down:
And the degradation of society continues. Is the library system here actually dumb enough to think that by renting video games that the kids will actually maybe check out a book? No...all they are assisting in is the expanded breeding of zombies with no social or intellectual skills.
Ah, yes, the good ol' "Video games will rot your brain!" argument. That never gets old. First of all, is anyone else tired of hearing about "the degradation of society"? Because, really, I'm not seeing it. We hit bumps and snags, but you know what, I think, in the scheme of things, society gets better over time. At what point in time do these people think we were better off? The 80s? The 50s? The 1850s? When were so much more cultured and morally virtuous? We're by no means perfect, and we've still got a long way to go, but, really... we were better off when people of color and women were treated like property, most people in our nation didn't have indoor plumbing, and the average life expectancy was less than sixty years?
Oh, right, when people talk about how society is crumbling, they usually mean either "there's something new that I don't like, and it scares me" or "my moral values are being questioned and opposed, and I don't like it." My mistake.
But, seriously, what does this person think that the library is full of, right now? Nothing but Great Works By Important Dead People? Becuase, as MP points out, there are plenty of, shall we say, socially and intellectually bankrupt books in a library. I used to check out Christopher Pike books all the time when I was young. If Tales From the Crypt and Saved By the Bell got together and created paperback spawnlings, Christopher Pike's books would be the result.
Which is to say: they're total pulp.
Delicious, delicious pulp, but pulp none-the-less.
The points that writer was getting to are a pretty common, though. There's this idea of The Library that's currently at war with what libraries are becoming. It used to be that people thought of The Library as some kind of massive brick or stone structure full of Important Information. Like Ye Olde Hall of Knowledge.
I think that's why we have the stereotype of the librarian as a mean old woman with glasses who hisses at us to be quiet all the time, and why we imagine rows upon rows of old, dusty books on stacks up to the ceiling.
The reality is that the role of libraries has been changing for years. Libraries themselves are changing. They're not just those massive intimidating stone slabs, anymore- they're becoming more and more modern, all the time. Many put as much emphasis on technology and art as they do literature. Libraries are an archive, yes, but they're not just a text archive. They're also a social institution.
As society has changed, so has the function of a library. One of the greatest things about a library is the invaluable service that it provides a society. Libraries not only collect and archive the products of a society, but they provide access to information and services and to the people who would otherwise be unable to share in them.
There's a social benefit in providing access to things like computers and film and, yes, video games. Even if video games were a completely worthless pursuit (which they're not)... so what? I actually think that, yes, the mere fact of getting the kid into the library to play the game has the potential to get the kid interested in books. Especially if, as MP suggests, the staff are using the opportunity to cross-promote related books, like displaying music related books around are in the area where you're hosting a Rock Band competition.
I think that there's still a lot of discussion to happen about how, exactly, we see the role of the library- particularly in the information age, when it's starting to seem like everything is available online and in digital form. But I think that the concept of the library as the Hallowed Hall of Written Text and Knowledge is long over. If someone is completely offended by the idea of the library as community space, I suspect that they're not visiting enough libraries.
In other, related, news:
I mailed my graduate application today. Let the nervousness of Waiting to Hear Back begin.