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Tomatoes from Mom

Mar - 19 - 2008
Nicole C. Engard

So I invited parents to throw tomatoes at my rant about the article by Dave Gibson in American Chronicle and my mother was the one to respond:

Mom: WOW!! What do I respond to first!!??
Nicole: hehe
Nicole: well for goodness sakes – who does he think we are???? do you damn job – you had the kids – you rase them right – stop blaming everyone else for your failures
Mom: games in libraries…why not books in the movie theater?? or movies in the bathroom?
Mom: there is a place for everything
Mom: It’s not one stop living….
Nicole: hmmmm
Nicole: maybe you should reply – and who says that libraries are just for books? they have DVDs and CDs and photograph collections…
Mom: All for learning!!! I hope
Nicole: games can be for learning
Mom: Libraries are for learning
Nicole: and no the dvds are of HOUSE
Nicole: that’s how i watched house
Mom: you checked the dvd out…you didn’t sit there and watch it in the theater room
Mom: libraries are for resources
Mom: and games are for fun!!
Nicole: reading can be fun
Nicole: ….
Mom: NOW that is what the”grown ups” (ha) need to teach their children
Mom: Tuperware can be fun too!
Nicole: but why not allow them to have games in the library – what about those less fortunate?
Nicole: or what about all of the stuff you can learn from games?
Mom: What makes not having “things” make you less fortunate?
Mom: Games that teach should be played WITH parents…
Nicole: now you’re getting a philosophical with me – i mean what about the kids who can’t afford games – at the library they can play them with their parents or other kids
Mom: Then let them rent the game and GO home to play with their parents
Mom: The library is sacred
Mom: It should be for QUIET learning
Nicole: renting costs money – do you mean borrow from the library?
Mom: yes
Nicole: you know this whole conversation is going on my blog right? Cause I totally don’t agree with you :) I think that as long as the library gives me a place for quiet learning/reading then I don’t care what’s going on in other sections
Nicole: as a working mother wouldn’t you like to go to the library and do a little quiet reading while your kid was able to sit in the kids section and play a game or read a book of their own?
Nicole: i’ve also heard of libraries giving classes for adults and how parents are so grateful that their kids can come to the library with them and be safe and learn while they learn
Mom: The problem with your firat statement is then why call it a library?
Nicole: who says that the definition of library is a place for quiet learning?
Nicole: you do?
Mom: why call it a grocery store? why a church?
Mom: because they are the labels that dictate a purpose
Nicole: and why can’t those change?
Mom: that should maintain their status as such
Nicole: you have Starbucks in the grocery store
Nicole: and day care in churches
Mom: then again, I ask..why not a one stop world
Nicole: why not?
Nicole: hehe
Nicole: you do your shopping online
Nicole: maybe i think online is only for communication – not shopping
Mom: let’s combine everything in to
Mom: one place and all go there
Nicole: like an international network? or internet???
Mom: that’s the ticket
Mom: instead of forcing us to get a tv service to watch entertainment the way the “experts” say we should
Mom: why not makeevery household internet connected for all our needs
Nicole: it’s getting there
Mom: then we wouldn’t have anywhere that was special to go to
Mom: and the children will suffer
Nicole: but i don’t understand why adding more services to a library makes it less special
Nicole: doesn’t it make it more special?
Nicole: libraries are teaching technology courses – I teach those courses
Nicole: should I not have a job?
Mom: it no longer is “specialized”
Mom: YOU ARE NOT PLAYING GAMES!!
Nicole: Other librarians are!! They’re in libraries teaching people about games!!! There is a keynote address at one of my conferences (for the last few years) just about that
Nicole: I teach people fun things too – not just how to research
Mom: for children?
Mom: or adults
Nicole: I teach them about facebook and flickr and blogging
Nicole: my classes are for adults
Nicole: and for librarians
Nicole: the conference is for librarians
Nicole: but it’s telling them how games can be good for kids!! they’re not all shoot ‘em up games
Mom: agreed
Nicole: you bought us a game that taught us to play piano and to write stories
Nicole: … why can’t those be in libraries?
Mom: and having the right games for parents to decide which to take home from the library to interact with their children is good
Nicole: but some families can’t afford a computer or game system to play the games on
Mom: to have games to play so parents don’t have to bother is wrong
Mom: that’s why I said make it a requirement
Nicole: i totally agree with that!!!
Nicole: That’s what I’m saying – that parents need to bother!
Nicole: but I don’t think having games in the library will stop the caring parents from caring
Mom: these same parents will pay for the “digital service”
Mom: No but it will allow the non caring parents one more way not to parent!
Mom: then the libraries will be blamed (like the schools)for the inadequecies of their children
Nicole: let’s think back – we weren’t allowed to buy books as kids – it was expensive and why buy books when you have a library (and your kids read 10 books a week) – you cared – but you found another way to give us an important experience – without having to pay
Nicole: why should parents have to pay?
Mom: I figured out a way…. Let the parents today figure it out
Mom: make a free gaming center for them if you want
Mom: but NOT in a library
Nicole: :)
Nicole: this is fun
Nicole: you’re not going to convince me, but it’s interesting to hear another point of view
Mom: not for me. Because I feel so strongly about “dead beat” parents
Mom: I got it!!
Mom: If the libraries want to have games for kids to “learn” then they must be played with adults until the child can appreciate them…just like books
Nicole: okay – i agree – an adult should be present – and i’m pretty sure that one always is
Nicole: just got a message from a friend:

Friend: i was just ‘gaming’ for the first time in a awhile
Friend: the other day
Friend: and realizing how many skills are actually to learn from gaming
Nicole: right!!!
Friend: especially in today’s society!
Friend: in a way, kids with moderate amount of gaming probably come away well equipped to multitask
Friend: and strategize, etc
Friend: there is an argument to be made that direction too
Friend: not that i’m a big gamer either, but I totally don’t agree with that kind of narrow ‘print’ mindedness

Nicole: but aren’t you doing the opposite of what this author did – you’re assuming that libraries are at fault for encouraging “dead beat” parents – like he’s blaming them for not educating kids
Nicole: and by opposite i mean the same thing…
Mom: let me re-read the article
Mom: HUH???
Mom: I re-read it and I think I do agree with him
Mom: He begins the article by saying that libraries are trying to woo teens
Mom: Woo this!!
Mom: if teens are so self absorbed that they need continually wooing to make them appreciate the special places in our world, then the parents should be fined!
Mom: having educational resources to learn available in a learning environment is great,but to put games in , just to get teen quota’s up is dumb.
Mom: let’s find one more way to “entertain” our future leaders so they do not become bored…
Nicole: hehe
Nicole: okay – i see i’m not going to win this argument
Nicole: i still don’t think that libraries having games is a bad thing – or that it’s making kids dumb
Mom: and i kinda agree that allowing teens to “hang out” at libraries to just “hang out” will make them “more” dumb. READ children READ!!!
Mom: Librarians are certainly not responsible for illiterates … parents are
Nicole: okay – at least we agree on one thing

19 Responses so far.

  1. “Woo this!!”

    Your mom is awesome just for that.

  2. Cheryl says:

    Thank you Jason…

  3. Brian says:

    I think that, in this context, the word ‘should’ is used in a way that prevents the evolution of an idea. Computers should be for work. Games should be for kids. TVs should show programs at specific times. Et cetera, ad nauseum.

  4. Cheryl says:

    By definition, the word “should” is described as:

    3. must; ought (used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency): You should not do that.
    Also further explained:
    “Because the main function of should in modern American English is to express duty, necessity, etc. (You should get your flu shot before winter comes), its use for other purposes, as to form a subjunctive, can produce ambiguity, at least initially”.

    With this in mind, I do, my dear son, agree on some levels that the interpretation of this word might be considered vague in context, but in knowledge of the author (me) it must be believed as concrete.

    Also, in checking my response, this word was only used by me four times in a rather lengthy retort.

    My views, on the article however, have nothing to do with games. I enjoy games (you know that) and I love gamers as well (you, Alissa to name a few). My strong reaction is to the offensive position of the article, that because teens are no longer frequenting libraries, we have to make them more appealing and add something besides books to “draw them in”. Why? If parents shared (their job) the delight of reading with their children, then libraries would continue to maintain the deep respect they deserve.

    Going to the library was (and should still be) an exciting and special event, not just an after-thought. When you entered a library, you felt the power and awe it personified!!

    To “woo” teens to appreciate this, by offering “treats” to come is extremely disturbing to me…

  5. Nicole says:

    Do you realize that you’ve now just agreed with me? I said that it’s the parents job – not the librarians – to teach kids to enjoy reading etc etc. If it’s the parents job – then why does it matter if there are games in libraries?

  6. Brian says:

    Why is it disturbing? See, in this case, the word “should” is being used to describe a world that you’d like to exist, rather than the world that does exist. Yes, children should go to libraries to read, rather than play games. Yes, parents should impress upon their offspring the importance and delight of reading. In a perfect world. Sadly, our world is imperfect, and for every child for whom these things are true, there are several more for whom these things are not. In a world where reading has been devalued, why is it a bad thing that libraries are using tactics like this to try to entice kids in, to show them that libraries are still valuable and, hopefully, that reading is fun?

    And, from another perspective, what is a library other than a repository of freely usable resources? Why should these resources be restricted to reading material? Should certain kids and families be precluded from playing games simply because they are less financially fortunate than others? Why is it bad that libraries are providing a safe environment in which to enjoy these things? Why is it bad that they are providing a free and legal alternative to stealing, pirating, or spending one’s lunch money on these things?

    (By the way, I’m not mad at you. I just like to argue.)

  7. Cheryl says:

    Because parents will not be present!!! I know that was not (and still is) true for you, but trust me…teens will say, “Mom, Dad, we’re going to the library, and parents will say ok, be home at 10:00pm and they will go and hang out just to hang out without remembering the importance of the institution. What will they learn? Better hand-eye coordination? They can learn that while their throwing their dirty clothes off the floor into the hamper in their rooms!

    Having other distractions (besides books, etc) will make the library just another place to waste time and that would be a tragedy.

  8. Cheryl says:

    the last response was to Nicole, I’ll get to you Brian in a moment!!! :)

  9. Nicole says:

    Mom – but why does the library have to be just about learning?? When you go check out your John Grisham books – or Dean Koontz (yes I know what you used to read) were you learning??

  10. Cheryl says:

    Ok, my dear son, the gloves are on…

    The world that I am describing did, and hopefully still, exisits! And, my “continually” evolving offspring (in-law), although it may seem, eons ago, my world was imperfect as well. Yet, these values and standards were as concrete and necessary as breathing (should we change that?). We, as the sages of this world MUST impart our wisdom and, although disturbing at times, insist on their implementation.

    The necessity to intice these floundering pubescent souls into the wonder that I call the library, by using “treats” if you will, is at the least, ludicrous. And to expect the keepers of this tradition to come up with these “treats”is even more ridiculous!!

    They should have no need. The mere essence of this institution must be enough! And again, I repeat, must be the responsibility of the “upcoming” sages.(oh, what a fright!!). Because children rebel or disengage themselves from what is right and true, (because they are bored) cannot be reason enough to change it.

    Now on to your other perspective… is not a park or a bathroom simply, as you put it, a repository of freely usable resources? Should we change their dimensions to meet the ever growing “discontent” that our youth (and I use our lightly, because mine would never be included) seems to be burdened with? There are a multitude of venues that are available to them to be used as other means of entertainment… Movie theaters, malls, gaming halls, amusement parks, bowling alleys, skating rinks (heaven forbid, they should enjoy the value of the latter two). All that we have created, has a place and a purpose and are enjoyed simply for what they ARE!

    And please, do not interject financial restraints as a justification for your argument. A $10.00 board game can be as stimulating as a $45.00 computer game, when appreciated and encouraged by the right participants… namely “parents”!!

    And I know that parents have and always will, find a way to give their children what they truly need.

  11. Cheryl says:

    Yes, Nicole… I was learning to read!!!!

  12. Jenny Levine says:

    I think this is the crux of the disagreement: “The problem with your first statement is then why call it a library?”

    Which version of “library” do you mean, because there have been seven stages in the evolution of libraries, all of which focused on different things. Originally, libraries were simply archives of the kingdom’s government (not even “knowledge”) that the general public did not have access to. Later, they were comprised of nonfiction material, and novels such as Jane Austen’s and Charles Dickens’ “penny dreadfuls” were considered to rot peoples’ minds.

    It wasn’t until the 20th Century that children were accepted into the library with services focused on them. At another point, one of the major missions became to assimilate immigrants into our culture and teach them about America. Now, of course, libraries also offer reference services, craft programs for kids, meeting spaces for knitting groups, DVDs, CDs, romance novels, tax forms, and more.

    So if we want to have a strict definition of what can and can’t be in a library and its purpose, which year do you want to pick? Because if you go back far enough, the [public] library was *not* a place for learning, but eventually that became one of its missions. I would argue that trying to box a library into one narrow interpretation strips it of its true value to all residents in the community.

    Next, we have the question of games. Is chess okay in the library? If yes, does an adult have to play chess with the child or can two children play unattended? If no, why are the skills kids learn playing chess not appropriate to a library setting? If chess is okay, what is the difference between board games and video games?

    I could go on with more questions and supportive evidence, but I will end by asking if libraries should offer storytime for young children? Parents can buy books at the big box bookstores or check them out from the library and then read them to their children at home. So why do we make this a shared experience in the library? Do libraries add value to the equation? Is it the social experience that occurs around that content that holds the real value? Should we stop doing storytime if we can’t prove that kids are learning something from it?

    I’m sure you see where I’m heading with this. As Eli Neiburger eloquently argues, we do storytime for the experience between the librarian, the primary audience (the children), and the secondary audience (parents). We instill a love of storytelling and shared experience, of the written word, and we highlight the value of it.

    Replacing the book with a videogame is no different. Those same social experiences occur, with or without the parents there. Teens are allowed to socialize amongst themselves in the library, too, not just adults. The library is for everyone, and it serves the recreational needs of the community, not just the educational ones.

    Is it okay for an adult, tired at the end of the day, to come hang out at the library with a friend, browse the shelves, engage in a group discussion, use the computers, etc.? Is the library a public space or only a learning space? I would argue it is the very definition of “Third Place” and that it is the last safe, non-commercialized space left in most communities where anyone (truly anyone) is welcomed. Do we really want to remove that last safe space in order to focus only on “good” things that we can force people to learn? Or do we want all of these great social interactions to happen around books, media, games, programs, and just hanging out, all surrounded by the knowledge of the world with information experts as guides, standing at the ready?

    I much prefer that vision to the one from the 19th century in which the only time I would go to the library, especially as a child, is to learn what someone else wants me to learn in the way they think I learn best. That’s not a place I would really want to go to at all, in fact.

    Great discussion here, and I appreciate everyone’s comments! :)

  13. Nicole says:

    Jenny,

    What an awesome response – and much more eloquent than I have been (being that I’m arguing with my mother :) )

    I was going to argue against her saying that kids should go to bowling alleys and skating rinks – while skating rinks may be okay – I sure wouldn’t want my kids inhaling all the second hand smoke you find in bowling alleys these days – were they like that when we were kids? Did we just not notice as our lungs were shrinking??

    Anyway, I’m happy to see such a long and civil discussion going on and I’m learning a ton!!

  14. Cheryl says:

    Although, contrary to most (because of my age), I can only reference the version of library that pertains to the here and now (or the was and should still be).

    Again, I refer to dictionary.com in citing:

    li·brar·y /?la??br?ri, -br?ri, -bri/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[lahy-brer-ee, -bruh-ree, -bree] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –noun, plural -brar·ies.

    1. a place set apart to contain books, periodicals, and other material for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference, as a room, set of rooms, or building where books may be read or borrowed.
    2. a public body organizing and maintaining such an establishment.
    3. a collection of manuscripts, publications, and other materials for reading, viewing, listening, study, or reference.
    4. a collection of any materials for study and enjoyment, as films, musical recordings, or maps.
    5. a commercial establishment lending books for a fixed charge; a lending library.
    6. a series of books of similar character or alike in size, binding, etc., issued by a single publishing house.
    7. Biology. a collection of standard materials or formulations by which specimens are identified.
    8. canon1 (def. 9).
    9. Computers. a collection of software or data usually reflecting a specific theme or application.

    Please reflect…

    1. A place “set apart”….
    2. A public body organizing…..
    3. A collection of manuscripts, publications…
    And now, #4. a collection of any material…………..for enjoyment… here, I believe, stems our discussion.

    Before, I begin, please understand that I could never strip this institution of its value! That is what I am trying to preserve. My objection, once again, is not the implementation of video games for enjoyment, into the library communities, but the mis-guided reasoning that this will get teens to experience the purpose of this building.

    To expect that they will walk into a library; drink in the smell of the multitudes of ink -turned pages, savor (and respect) the quiet it commands and challenge these youths to grow without anything but their imaginations is IMPOSSIBLE! This MUST BE LEARNED!!! To say that digital watches serve no function, is ridiculous; but a child must learn the basics first to appreciate its purpose. You must instill this first.

    And your statement regarding collective reading to young children in a library…This is what it’s all about. Teach them the true (current) purpose of the library and once they have learned this incredible lesson, then you can add monkeys and elephants in the building and all will be able to be appreciated for their worth!

  15. Jenny Levine says:

    Thanks for the clarificaiton, Cheryl. To make sure I understand, are you saying that children first need to be taught reverence for the library and the written word before they can experience anything else within the physical building? I want to make sure I understand what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I do.

    Interestingly, though, the definition of the library you refer to makes no mention of learning, imagination, or experience. Those are all things I believe you might be adding based on your past experience. If we look at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition, it doesn’t even note the reading, study, viewing, or listening components:

    1 a: a place in which literary, musical, artistic, or reference materials (as books, manuscripts, recordings, or films) are kept for use but not for sale b: a collection of such materials
    2 a: a collection resembling or suggesting a library b: morgue 2
    3 a: a series of related books issued by a publisher b: a collection of publications on the same subject
    4: a collection of cloned DNA fragments that are maintained in a suitable cellular environment and that usually represent the genetic material of a particular organism or tissue

    Part of the problem for me is your statement that “I can only reference the version of library that pertains to the here and now (or the was and should still be).” Just because the library *was* that way, doesn’t mean it should still be now. That’s a very subjective opinion, and it means my experience in the library as a child or as an adult (especially if I’m a parent expected to be with my kid every minute and spend each of those moments teaching them appreciation) has to conform to your past experience. My experience may have been different from yours – why is yours inherently better? The value that you are trying to preserve is from a snapshot in time, but time does not stand still.

    I guess I would argue that the true purpose of the library is whatever the person, regardless of age, makes it. Yes, we want kids to learn to love the library and all it has to offer, but I am happy to let that happen through any format or social experience that is enhanced in a library setting. I think there are many ways to grow imagination, with no one way being any more important or valid than another. It is the combination that produces a vibrant and curious child, and libraries can provide a background and context for that curiosity for all things, not just the written word contemplated in quiet and solitude.

    Sorry if I’m misunderstanding what you’re trying to say.

  16. Jenny Levine says:

    And the point I really wanted to make and forgot to add….

    “This is what it’s all about. Teach them the true (current) purpose of the library and once they have learned this incredible lesson, then you can add monkeys and elephants in the building and all will be able to be appreciated for their worth!”

    I agree that this is one piece of what we want to have happen, but I’m willing to let that love and appreciation occur around something other than the book. I will take love of the library from any source, whether it’s from the programs offered, the books that are available, the safe and comfortable environment offered, the quiet study space, or whatever else helps expand that child’s world. I believe that same experience you cherish can happen around gaming, with or without parents present.

  17. Cheryl says:

    Jenny

    Thank you for your responses. I ultimately believe that we both share the same strong views on the importance of the library. I am, however still very disturbed by the beginning statement of the original article from Dave Gibson. To have to “accommodate” or “woo” teens to enjoy something that should have been taught by parents from their childhood, is where my discontent lies.

    As you and I have both discovered, (and you have stated) the definition of library does not encompass the experience, and I believe this is what Mr. Gibson’s concerns are also.

    (Definitions are to explain what is, not necessarily what happens).

    Children learn what we teach them and I am concerned that the real joys of the library will become lessened, unless the reverence is upheld. And when that happens, all others (except the the parents) will be blamed.

    Having a multitude of learning resources is wonderful for the right reasons, but I am not sure that gaming will maintain the integrity of this institution. Parents must be required to uphold these standards and insist that teens use the library for much more than a place to “play”. It should not become a “hang out” that parents can hide behind by simply saying, “Johhny is at the library”. Doing what?….

    Can libraries maintain the qualities you express? Safe and comfortable environment…quiet study place… and of course my greatest experience at a library; the importance and wonder it contains….

    A child should feel honored to be allowed to go the library…

    One more point, I will try and explain that you state concerns you, is my perception of the library. You say that my statement is subjective and you are right. I do not however, agree that my experiences are just a “snapshot” in time. They have come from generations of sharing the same views. The same views that I have passed on to my children and hope will be passed onto theirs. Certainly not my “old fashioned” views of the “card catalog” and the “Dewey Decimal System”, but once again, of the true intrinsic values that the library holds.

    ps. One more subjective opinion…. parents must be present in everything their chidren do. That is their “job” first and foremost..
    I’ll be quiet now.. :)

  18. Having now met Cheryl, I’m impressed! She is one smart dame (and feisty like her daughter).


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