Sunday, November 13, 2005

Write On!

Write On!

Here’s a random thought ... I was thinking earlier about writing in books ... I was in the airport about a week ago and overheard a mother chastising her child for writing in a library book ... the kid was probably ten years old (in his mother’s eyes, old enough to know better).

It made me remember a meeting of our staff a few years ago ... staff were complaining about a specific patron who consistently wrote in books ... nothing obscene or damaging ... he simply kept notes about what he was reading and what it meant to him. His comments were always in the margin and never impeded the reader’s view of the original text. I remember thinking ... “Surely we have something more important to talk about than a guy writing in books!”

These days, I’m a few years older and (I’d like to think) a shade more enlightened ... and what I recognize is that there is not much that’s more important than the idea of a guy writing in library books ...

We’re in the age of collaborative and compound content ... not just the original work but interactivity between the original content and the derivative stuff too ... writing in books is exactly what we want ... we want kids (and adults too) to not only read for enlightenment, we want them to understand the deeper meanings and be able to apply it to their own circumstances.

How cool would it be to have access to a book with dog-eared pages and the scribbles of 10, 50, or 100 years of readers/thinkers in the margins ... ideas that move beyond those of Charles Darwin in his Origin of Species and adding to them the opinions, questions, and feelings of a 17-year old high school senior, a single mother of three who’s going back to school, or a 72-year old Jesuit priest ... you ... me ...

Now, I’m a rabble rouser, I understand that ... I want us to actively invite our patrons to comment and question everything local (including their library service, which they too often accept passively as “good”) ... I want libraries to be the publishers and archivists and commentarians of content for, about, and by local folks ... I want not just to read the books, but all of the ideas that my community-mates have left within the margins ...

I don’t know what that kid in the airport wrote ... maybe it was nothing ... maybe it was spectacular ... I’m pretty much an optimist, so I’m banking that it if the kid wrote it, it was worth writing ... I don’t often say “I wish I would have ...” but this time, I wish I would have said to his mom, “Let him write ... it’s important to his development and to the well-being of our society ... Right on kid ... write on!

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