Friday, November 2, 2007

All School Day - Session 2

Here we continue our report of last weekend's speakers.

Our second speaker was Edward Smith, Director of Member Services Development for Amigos Library Services and UNT alum, with his presentation: "Technology Is the Answer! What was the question again?" Smith attributes the creation of his lecture to the book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts and to his experience as a boy when a librarian handed him his first non-children's book, Treasure Island.

Smith supplied us with some statistics about librarians:

25% of library professionals decided they wanted to enter the career by age 20.

Most cited reason for people to choose the profession is a love of books and reading.

33% of librarians say it was a K-12 librarian in there schools that affected their decision to become a librarian.

Others chose librarianship because:

The career was a good fit.

The job opportunities available.

The intellectual aspects of the work.

The focus of his talk was about literacy by which he meant not only reading, but also analyzing what one reads. When someone asked a room full of librarians what they do to promote literacy, the surprise was that no one said "I read." Smith argues that technology can not cause nor prevent the death of literacy because literacy can die anytime that people stop reading.

Smith alluded to much literature during his presentation. He spoke of Goethe's Faust and his pact with the devil to exchange his soul for an infinite level of knowledge that could never possibly be obtained. He referenced Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 and how you don't have to destroy books to get rid of their content, you just have to get people to stop reading them. He also spoke of Walker Percy's Lost In the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book which asks why does mankind always feel sad in the twentieth century when basic needs are met much better than in earlier times? We are cut off by technology, yet technology is meant only to be a tool to aid us in our endeavors, not the means to an end. Smith made allusions to Shakespeare's Hamlet, Walt Whitman's "I Sing the Body Electric," the plaque at Lincoln's monument, Tennyson's "Lotos-Eaters," and A Good Match: Library Career Opportunities for Graduates of Liberal Arts Colleges by Rebecca A. Watson-Boone.

Smith's presentation put our whole program on technology into perspective: Technology is only a tool. All technologies fade. Literacy is the key to keep libraries alive, so librarians should keep reading and share what they do with their patrons.

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