Video gamerA little while ago I posted here on the boom in video gaming in libraries, and how, against my better judgment, it irked me. As a librarian who loved books as a teenager – of course there were no game machines back then – I was a little disturbed by the fact that the only way that YA librarians seemed to draw many teens into the library was letting them play Guitar Hero or Dance Dance Revolution there. “Are we selling out?” I wondered. “Is the only way we can get teens to go anywhere near print to pretend that we’re ignoring print?”

Were I younger and/or cooler, I’m sure that such thoughts would never pass through my mind. And I keep hearing that some teens can be persuaded to borrow books once we lure them in with the games, so I can’t – and never will – really argue that libraries shouldn’t be offering games.

But I had to laugh when I saw this opinion piece, “Our Public Libraries Are Being Turned Into Video Arcades” by freelance writer Dave Gibson in the American Chronicle (a publication based somewhere in California, it appears). There were my most curmudgeonly thoughts, right on the screen, and I cringed to read them. Gibson writes:

Unfortunately, it appears that this country’s librarians have decided to do their part in the dumbing-down of America. What has happened to this country?…All of the librarians I have known were in love with the written word and truly enjoyed opening the door to their world to young people. Perhaps, today’s crop of young librarians would be better served answering their calling as arcade attendants and movie theatre managers.

This is, of course, the voice of the 1950s-style conservative; I’ll bet Gibson doesn’t like graphic novels, either – many of which I love (although that’s no excuse for my retro beliefs about video games). But he writes as if (roll eyes here) teens of ages past actually enjoyed the literary classics. I found them torture, and kids now find them torture. All I wish for is to see teens occasionally check out at least one object, any object, with a cover and some pages.

Watching frequent library users every day coming up to the circ desk with no books at all – only stacks of DVDs – saddens me a little. But I know that’s a personal emotional reaction it would be wrong to let those people see. I should feel happy, too, that people of all ages are still finding something they want in the library instead of staying away. I love the printed word, and I will always work hard to tell young people how great books are. Who cares what I think about Guitar Hero or DDR?

Advertisements