Arthur Murray Book Club

31

At the Boston Public Library each month, teenagers get down to the
vigorous techno thumps of the popular arcade game Dance Dance Revolution. The Norwell Public Library treats visitors to a monthly free dinner and a movie.

Borrowers in Andover take out portable, digital audio books so tiny that they can jog through the park or shop at the mall while listening to Dan Brown’s bestseller “The Da Vinci Code.”

And in Palmer, young patrons jostle for their turn to play Guitar Hero II, a video game that has replaced the more traditional karaoke nights in some bars.

from the Boston Globe

Long a fan of libraries, the Dowbrigade is all in favor of their trying to reinvent themselves in the digital age. When we were a kid, we remember spending many a Saturday morning in the Rochester Public Library, and it wasn’t to play games. It was to flirt with Lisa Sattinger, who as a 12-year old was known to wear pantyhose and play footsie under the library tables while perusing tomes on the Italian Renaissance and radioactive isotopes.

Last we heard Lisa won a genius grant, while we are still playing footsie with fate under the table of life. And while we strongly believe that in a world awash in electronic information we need people and places dedicated to cataloging, accessing and helping people use that information more than ever, we question such crass attempts to lure in new patrons.

Furthermore, libraries do not need such extreme measures to survive.  They are not in danger of extinction. The role of the library, and the librarian, are simply evolving with the form and function of the information they contain, getting closer to the Universal Library envisioned by Jorge Luis Borges.

But promoting Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero as ways to attract youth to the libraries strikes us as misconceived and counterproductive. You might as well post a sign over the door, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Couldn’t they at least try to get them to play games with a lexical component, like “Scrabble” or “Dungeons and Dragons”? Games like Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero not only fail to provide opportunities for developing reading and writing skills, they don’t even involve talking, or thinking.

You might as well offer slot machines, dog fighting and topless librarians! We thought one of the goals of a library was to promote literacy, or are we hopeless old fashioned?

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