Atlantic Ocean at Montauk, New York ©Dawn R. Morris
I've lived near the ocean for most of my life, and it's still the place I head to first when I need either a reality check or inspiration. When I hear the crashing of those waves, it reminds me that I'm just one tiny dot in the circle of life.
And yet, every single choice I make affects the planet.
Did you know that oceans cover approximately 70% of the Earth's surface? And even though there are 5 layers of the ocean, "the top ten feet of the ocean hold as much heat as our entire atmosphere?"
Hmmm...Couldn't the same be said for information and technology?
It used to be that we had to go deep for information. We had to look through card catalogs to find books relating to our topic. I don't think any of us would want to go back to that, assuming we're lucky enough to even have access to a library or books at all.
But now, we can find answers to many of those questions very quickly via our cell phones and computers. Not only that, but we can even use such tools to communicate with others or to simply entertain ourselves. A tweet here. A text there. An email here. A Facebook update there.
It's almost like people are warming advanced technology kind of like the sun warms the top layers of the ocean, isn't it? And that warmth creates a cycle. Some of that information evaporates into thin air, but it never really disappears. It will eventually turn up in a different body of water, perhaps in a different part of the world. The possibilities are endless, really.
The question is, though, if most of us are staying near the surface, how much are we missing out on by not going deeper? Does the information which floats near the surface tell the whole story?
When we read articles online, for example, how many of them are actually research-based? These days, anyone can claim to be an expert, after all. We can't just stop with the first one we find. We often have to dig deeper. Most likely, we'll end up having to read at least one book to find a complete answer.
And so, we have to hold our breath and swim a little deeper. We may eventually need scuba gear, or even a submarine.
As the sea of information and technology becomes ever deeper and more complex, who better to prevent us from drowning in it all than a librarian? While many of us are able to get by navigating it all on our own right now, doesn't it make sense that the deeper we venture out into the water, the more likely it will be that we might need a lifeguard? Who knows what kind of storms might come our way, even if we are on a very large ship.
Thomas Frey makes a great case for the increasing importance of librarians in his 2006 blog post, The Future of Libraries. Here's an excerpt:
"As we achieve the ability to conduct more and more complicated searches, the role of librarian to assist in finding this kind of information also becomes more and more important. People will not have the time and skills necessary to keep up on each new innovation in the search world, and they will need a competent professional to turn to."
Doesn't he make a lot of sense? Couldn't we all use a little help, even now?
So, why are so many of us so quick to write-off libraries completely? Instead of taking them for granted, like submarines we don't think about or see, why can't we encourage them to pop up at the surface more often?
If the libraries were completely transformed into state-of-the-art community learning/technology/information./cultural centers (books included), would there be a single person out there who wouldn't see the value in them?
As it becomes easier to communicate with people all over the world, it also seems that our face-to-face, community-centered conversations are happening less often than ever. Why can't public libraries become places where people of all ages are able to learn together in fun and meaningful ways? What that means for each community is probably not the same, but that's okay.
And perhaps that's the most important point of all: while we're all so tempted to become lost in our little tech worlds (myself included), there probably is someone sitting right next to us, or who lives next door, who is waiting to engage in real conversation. Eye contact included.
We can make that happen. And so can librarians. All we need to do is look up and around once in a while.
Kind of like a submarine. Only better.