I'm pleased to welcome guest blogger and fellow KidLiteratureAuthor.com writerly colleague, Carmela Dutra. On top of her talent as an author, illustrator, and photographer, Carmela never ceases to amaze me with her boundless energy in supporting literacy, books, and reading. Her post will get you thinking about how and why we use libraries in the digi-age.
Who needs libraries?
I mean, after all, we have the internet, right?
What good can libraries still offer?
Some of my fondest memories include trips to the local library. I spent most of my summers there, entering reading contests, checking out my first chapter books; then as I got older, I was able to use their computers. The library was a safe haven for kids my age. Our parents knew where we were, knew we were safe, and knew that we would be involved in something educational.
Libraries really are the gates to the future. Libraries focus on the value of information. Information in any format: hard copy books, e-books, audiobooks, etc.
While, yes, the internet does offer value in information, that is not the primary focus. Libraries are places, portals and resource hubs that link us to valuable information. Libraries and librarians, with their knowledge and research skills, are in the best position to provide much needed search and digital literacy skills to ensure that we, and our children, access the right learning resources. (I’ve yet to find someone on the internet who can do that.)
Yes, we do have the internet and can browse information from the comfort of our home. And if you are looking for speed, well, then the internet is what you want! A lot of things are even free on the internet.
How the internet compares to a library
Not everything is available on the Internet: the amazing amount of useful information on the web has, for some, produced the false assumption everything can be found online. It's simply not true.
An area of special concern in regard to children is quality control. Yes, we need the Internet, and it can be useful, but in addition to all the scientific, medical, and historical information (when accurate), there is also a cesspool of waste. There is no quality control on the Web, and there isn’t likely to be any. Unlike libraries where vanity press publications are rarely, if ever, collected, vanity is often what drives the Internet. Libraries ensure that they deliver the best quality of information to children. Does the internet?
Libraries allow parents the opportunity to actively participate in their children’s reading. They offer a place where families can spend time with one another. Some have reading programs for children who need a little extra help in this area. Others have sing along and reading time for infants and toddlers where parents can be involved. The internet can offer this too, but is it always free? Can the parents be involved? Are they encouraged to be involved? How does a virtual person singing and reading compare to someone doing these things in person?
The Internet isn't Free
Numerous academic research papers, journals, and other important materials are virtually inaccessible to someone seeking to pull them off the web for free. Rather, access is restricted to expensive subscription accounts, which are typically paid for by college libraries. Therefore, visiting a college library in person, or logging in to the library through your school account, is the only way to affordably access necessary archived resources.
The Internet Complements Libraries, but Doesn't Replace Them
There are clear advantages of libraries over the internet for research. On the other hand, the internet is clearly a great resource for finding information, but it's not a replacement for a library. There are definite benefits of the using internet, including sampling public opinion, gathering quick facts, and pooling a wide range of ideas.
The point is this: libraries are completely different than the web. In this light, to talk about one replacing the other begins to seem absurd.
Don't be shy. Do you think libraries are gems or dinos? Please join the conversation in the comment section below.
Carmela Dutra, writer and illustrator of children's literature, is the author of Lorenzo the Bear at Jellyfish Cove. She has also been a professional photographer for the last 10 years. Working with children has always been her passion! Whether she captures their whimsical nature with her camera or through her stories, she encourages children to find their own passion for reading and writing.
Carmela discusses kids, reading, learning, art, and more on her blog and social media sites.
Blogging about books, writing, family life, travel and more good stuff.
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