Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New toys...and the tyranny of technology

I'm typing this using the new toy...which may seem rather odd once you read the rest of my post.  Yes, here I am, planted on the couch, by the windows letting in beautiful winter sunshine, my feet up on the edge of the coffee table...and Beloved has just handed me a coffee to top it all off...with the new iPad.

I resisted this for a while.  Because hubby (and I too, in a previous life) is a graphic designer who works from home, we have computers already...but it's always been a juggle for me to find a decent length of time on one during the week without getting in his way of work.  I don't like to spend much time on the weekends stuck in the studio (especially not on beautiful sunny winter days) because weekends should be family time.  And that leaves late evenings, which are not ideal, as I'm usually tired and can't think of anything to say and end up web surfing and then feeling guilty about the time wasted.  And I don't like sitting in the office chair in front of the screen in the chilly studio to read a long and interesting article online.  That's just wrong!  That requires a comfy chair and a fire and a cup of tea at the least (or perhaps a glass of red wine in the evening?!) So, we bought an iPad.  It also means that munchkins can use it (sparingly...I'm trying to limit all 'screen' time to no more than two hours a day), and play some educational games, and also look at the Internet under supervision.  Because like it or not, I know they'll have to learn how to use these damn things sometime!

So that's all fine and dandy.  But sometimes...oh how I wish for simpler times when the dreaded computer was nowhere to be seen.

This semester I'm working at a local school, helping out in the library while one of the permanent staff members is away.  I did work experience at a library, way back in the mists of time, when I was 17, before computers and smart boards and printers and remote control air conditioners and digital cameras and audio-visual equipment.  It was fun, I remember considering it as a career back then, being a fan of libraries in general.  And working in this one has been fun too, to a point.  Meeting the kids (even the monosyllabic teenagers!) is fun, talking about books, seeing which are favourites (the ones I'm constantly re-shelving), seeing old favourites of mine still finding an audience now, it's all wonderful...when I have time.  But it seems an enormous amount of time is taken up pfaffing about with technology.  I have to learn a whole lot of new stuff just to be able to issue and return books.  There's scanners and barcodes (for students as well as books), programs that have to be logged onto and long and complicated processes completed in order to do the simplest thing, and then logged out again before you can do anything else.  A website that I need but cannot access because I'm (at the moment anyway) only casual, so I have to use someone else's computer.  Not to mention the turning on and off of about twenty computers for students, answering (or trying to) student queries about why they can't print (who knows), why are they locked out of their login (who knows), can I give them a new password (only if I can access the site I'm not supposed to access), and so on and so forth.  Answering staff questions about how to use the smart board (who knows), are the laptops all charged and ready for the class to use (who knows).  And that's all when the technology is actually working.  When it isn't, everything stops while I wait for the poor beleaguered IT specialist (who is also a teacher, so isn't exactly hanging around just waiting to fix something) to find time to sort it out.  It's not a fear of the technology, I've been working with computers for 24 years and they are wonderful tools.  But I resent it.  I resent the time learning all this stuff is taking up, taking me away from being my (probably fantasy) idea of a helpful school librarian, when I know that all these new 'skills' will be forgotten and obsolete in a year or so.  I resent the fact that when it doesn't work, there is no manual alternative.  How much time is wasted worldwide because of 'sorry, the system is down at the moment'?  As a person who likes to do things with their hands (I love the new book covering work, and book repairing), I hate hate hate sitting in front of a frozen screen wasting time and knowing there's nothing I can do, I can't circumvent the system.

And so, I found myself day-dreaming the other day of an old fashioned library.  With old, dark wooden shelves (no melamine allowed) and card files.  Where the books have little pockets in the back with cards in them, and date stamps, where there are no computers or smart boards.  I have a vision.  It's called the Luddites Library Cafe.  A sign on the door tells you to turn off your mobile phone.  There is no WiFi.  Laptops, DS games, iPads (yes, I know, I just bought one), Mp3 players etc are not permitted.  There are squishy comfy chairs, and quiet study nooks, shelves and shelves of everyone's childhood favourites, and a little cafe section where you may buy a nice hot cuppa and a piece of cake and peruse your weekly selections in peace and quiet, or have quiet discussions with fellow library members (perhaps an alfresco section for sunny days and louder conversations?)  Wood floors so you have to walk quietly, and hand painted wooden signs over each section.

I explained this vision to my mum.  She told me I'd only ever get little old ladies visiting my library.  I don't know, I think there might be a lot more people out there who would relish visiting a place like that, a technology free zone where peace and quiet rule.  What do you think?

16 comments:

jinxxxygirl said...

Oh count me in for sure.....but then i'm 45 so pretty close to old lady status........but what you described (so well i might add) is exactly what i crave and surely we cannot be alone......i'm a firm believer that sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward........I used to love going to my local bookstore (Hastings) unitl they moved locations and went to all metal shelving that was only as tall as me.......it used to be dark wood and above my head so you felt secluded as you walked down the ailes....they are forgetting atmosphere, atomosphere,atmosphere! LOL! Great post! Hugs! deb

Charlotte said...

Music to my ears. I love what can be done with technology... using animations and film I can bring things to life for children with little or no spoken English.

But I do the bulk of my teaching on a board, flip chart and on occasion the top of the table. Writing and reading are the essence. Not to mention the need for a library.

We lost ours to so that we could have an ICT suite! A large number of the books in my classroom are mine, I lend them to the kids.
I could not agree with you more, ICT is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.

Oya's Daughter said...

Without my IPad I wouldn't be able to homeschool my son. He refuses to have anything to do with books, writing, or sometimes even talking out loud. The Ipad has put the world back into his hands, which is true for a lot of people who are chronically ill or have disabilities. Without the tech, they'd be unable to express themselves at all.

It's fine to go without tech, and I've certainly felt the same in the past - but only because I was more able to do traditional things. Now, I'm grateful for technology as it has made so many things possible which I could formerly never do. Going to a library is no longer a possibility for me - pretty much leaving the house, actually. It would be nice to have those days again...but that would also require me not to be disabled any more. No chance of that.

My tuppence.

mel said...

oh my goodness...you are speaking to my torn heart!! as much as i appreciate and value the wonders of technology..i, too, have moments when i desperately crave the simpler times. i think it's the curse/gift of having existed (and functioned quite happily, thankyouverymuch), before the advent of mass technology...

and i am in love with your vision of the Luddites Library Cafe....i'm not a little old lady (yet) but i would SO be there....*sigh*...it sound like a little piece of heaven...

:)

Mo Crow said...

the Research Library at the Royal Botanic Gardens still had a card system with those lovely old wooden drawers when I worked as a gardener there in the 1990's & it was a joy to use! I was a luddite in those days, I hated computer screens they hurt my eyes & thought confusers (as i called them) were just karaoke machines for people who couldn't draw !
All my friends were amazed when we bought an iMac in the late 90' & it revolutionized are lives, I love that we can scan all my artwork and record all Rod's music & then print our books and burn CDs in house, no middle man, that is magic & very empowering! & I'll never forget the wonder the first time I used one for research, I needed to know which way a butterfly's tongue unfurled clockwise or anti-clockwise for an illustration I was working on & being able to bring a up a photo in an instant rather than wait until the library opened was such a treat as is being able to communicate with you & so many like-minded folk from all around the world!

Mo Crow said...

oh and I am an old lady these days so please excuse the typos in the last post 'twas just too excited!

kat said...

Hi All, As someone who works in a library, amusingly, in another Hastings across the world, I'll put in a plea for the wonder of linking straight from an article about a painting in an online encyclopedia, to the image of that painting in a gallery across the world, one which you have no hope of visiting. That takes a book a step further. Or there's the link from an online biography, to the archive that holds papers about the person, and an image of their portrait from somewhere else in the world. So, you don't have to wait for the library to open any more, it's open all the time. Oh, and there's us, talking her in a space that doesn't exist, yet does.
Yay for technology wisely used - and the odd leather binding here and there!
:-)

Valerianna said...

I'd visit.... and enjoy cake and coffee and a magazine and delve into the overisize art book section, WAAAY better than seeing reproductions on a 13 inch screen, so you best have plenty of those handy for me ( and chocolate cake is best... soy milk for my coffee - can it be steamed? )

Wayward Harper said...

ohhhhh yes pleeease!! that sounds like heaven!! Obviously technology is awesome and all, but to really get away from it in such a way would be magical!!xx

kat said...

Chocolate cake in the library?!!!! Eeeeek, only if each eater undertakes to very thoroughly lick fingers before opening any of those lovely oversize books with fold out three times reproductions! Oh and bribes the librarian with two slices a day!
Would a 21 inch screen be better?

Mo Crow said...

These videos and podcasts of the Unbound: Future of the Book Symposium which took place in Cambridge Massachusetts in May this year are fascinating with lots of book art & book conservation illuminaries speaking from the audience as well!
http://futurebook.mit.edu/media/
Enjoy!

Sara Shalom said...

I would absolutely come. I am the "library fairy" at my kids' school (Basically, the librarian, but I wear wings and carry a wand), where we are still using a card catalog system. It has its drawbacks for sure, but overall, I love it. We don't watch TV at all at my house (except we saw some olympics). We have one screen for DVD and wii use. Video games are limited to 1/2 hour/dey during the week, with 2 hours on Saturday and none at all on Sunday. My kids (ages 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11) don't surf the web yet. I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm a Luddite (obviously, since I'm online right now), but I want my kids to experience *real* life for as long as possible before they get immersed in virtual reality. We frequent all of our local libraries. I can promise, though, that if your library existed, we would mostly be there. And if you needed a fairy on staff, maybe we could work something out... :)

dinahmow said...

Where can I apply for a Luddite Library card?

char said...

As a bonified "little old lady" I would love to visit your imaginary "Library". I do remember visiting such a place as a student in High School, and as an adult. Well, ok, by then there was less oak and more melamine, but you still had to be quiet, but you could stay all day if you had a mind to. I love books, especially if they contain Beadwork. But a good novel always has my vote. Happy daydreaming to all.

Ruthie Redden said...

oh yes i would visit your cafe library, with the greatest of pleasure leaving all technology behind at the door. Oh to have quiet corners & cosy places, cups of tea & time to just sit and peruse. I loved the little old library of my childhood, the sound of the books being stamped, the flick of the cards in their little drawers. Lovely memories. I often long fpr a world of days gone y without this computer technology, odd as i blog & twitter & sell on-line. But if it wasn't here i wouldn't have to consider it lol. But then i would so miss all you lovely blogging folksies x

Chloe G said...

Ned Luddite smashed up the newly-invented looms that were threatening to put him and all his fellow workers out of a job, a fact I only read about the other day in Kurt Vonnegut's sharply critical book A Man Without A Country.... and how ironic that I should have randomly stumbled across your blog just a couple of days later and read this post :-) Serendipidy.

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