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They don’t even read the instructions…


In a recent article in the American Chronicle, Dave Gibson shares his disappointment in the modern trend of “video games” in the public library. His comments are firmly on the opposition of such activities in the library and his arguments rely on the failing literacy rates and basic knowledge drought in America.

I find his tenous connection of video gaming and movies in public libraries as a major contributor to our sliding educational values, to be illogical and ill-informed. To me this is like someone blaming the grocer for not selling the products on the shelves that they really enjoy and complaining that his advertisements for other products are obscene.

Frankly, the only part of his article that truly addressed the real issue here is when he reflects on his past experiences with libraries. To quote Mr. Gibson:

When I was a kid, libraries were places of literate study and my parents took me there every Saturday. I read all of my books throughout the week so that I could check out more the following Saturday. It was something in which the whole family participated and something to which we all looked forward.

In this statement, the real source of his love of not only reading but self-education, was instilled by his supportive family. It is unfortunate that many children don’t have this level of suppot and are never exposed to the “classics” he mentions. Additionally those children tend to view education as more chore than delight and cave in to peer pressure when they reveal their curiosity for knowledge.

I personally take offense to blatant attacks on video games for being “low brow” or “low class” forms of entertainment. True they are quite different from classical Greek poetry, but many of our classics today were less than acclaimed when they were released. Many well produced video games are often more complex, thought provoking, and engaging than their film or literary equivalents. There are countless movements to reinvigorate our younger generation’s love of reading and knowledge, but at the same time all too many antecedents draw their attention away from such pursuits.

Our modern media seems to care more about the idiotic life journeys of pop icons such as Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, rather than more noteworthy developments in science and culture.

Back to the point, our literacy rates are falling for many reasons, but I would wager libraries introducing new outreach programs using video games is less than the prime concern. Parents have less time for their own reading excursions, which then leads to less influence on their children’s reading habits. The school systems continue to wage battles on funding, curriculum, and standardized exams, that seem to be truly “leaving the children behind.” I have yet to meet a librarian who doesn’t enjoy reading and who doesn’t attempt to inspire informational curiosity at any given moment.

Librarians can’t be designated the sole supervisor for children learning to read or be responsible for their cultural education. We are an additional support structure for these developments and can add a dizzying array of unforeseen avenues to any informational pursuit. But if the malady of our nation becoming “unintelligent” is not fully healed by our application of Harry Potter bandages, why aren’t those pouring salt in the wounds being held to the same inquiry.

As a side I find the name dropping technique when posing an argument to be rather crude and nearly an elitist tactic to show your own pseudo-superiority. Especially when your argument states a concern about only the wealthy obtaining an education. It’s like that line from Dickens…. wait you almost got me there.

Categories: library science
  1. Alison
    03/21/2008 at 1:30 pm

    I can’t believe how incredibly way of the mark Mr. Gibson is. How can you blame the fact that there are children in the US that can’t locate New York on a map on librarians and gaming? I’m not even a librarian yet and that burns me up. How about the education system, parents, teachers?? Sure, it’s easy to place the blame somewhere, but how about pick something that’s relevant to the topic? I’m sorry, but I fully agree with libraries offering gaming to their teens. I used to work at a library in Charlotte, NC where teens would come from all around to attend gaming nights, and they would stick around afterwards to check out the YA section, some of the new Manga, and much more. Maybe one of them came across some Greek poems and fell in love with them…you never know!

  2. 03/21/2008 at 2:11 pm

    Well put Allison. At the local Public Library I was very impressed by the obviously intentional proximity of their YA section as well as the many avenues for them to ask for something that had popped into their mind. Libraries aren’t trying to become arcades, they are trying to attract and inspire the younger generation. In doing so, help them grow. But with enough “hot topics” and catastrophic rhetoric, anyone can get published.


  3. rachel
    03/25/2008 at 3:20 pm

    hmmmm….just checked their catalog…& mr gibson’s local library (norfolk public) has over 300 items – including lots & lots of ‘books’ – by (or related) to twain & kipling. uhmm….so…what’s the deal with his ‘replacement’ comment?? (excerpted below) it appears that they (as well as many public libraries) are trying to offer something for everyone in their community. in other words…sounds (to me) like they are doing ‘their job’/fulfilling their mission. but what do i know? i like all media, i.e. books & games & photography & films & tv & magazines & newspapers & internet……so i guess that means i’m ‘illiterate’. 😉

    “Apparently, the works of such luminaries as Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain have been replaced with the Xbox and Nintendo Wii.” (gibson)

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