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?