We Need Books People…

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I’m in awe of Halifax’s most recent libraries. I was incredibly excited when Keshen Goodman opened. It was such a different take on everything I’d ever experienced in a library. I was used to walls and stacks; narrow stacks of books that were designed for you to get in, get your book and get out. THIS library was none of those things. Wide open spaces flowing with natural light, open concept conference rooms, areas to sit and enjoy a book, wide-aisled stacks that would let you peruse, read, mingle. It was incredible.

Then came the Halifax Central Library. I have never been a fan of it’s predecessor. It was a gloomy place where books went to die. But the new library is a wonder of modern design and aesthetics. You’re not in a library. You’re in a piece of art and culture. You’re in a monument to beauty and luxury. Reading spaces are expertly crafted and conference rooms become a living and breathing part of the library.

And then there’s the iPads.

I’m a stay at home father of two. My son is 4, my daughter 2. We go to the library for a few reasons. I’ve always been in awe of their wonderful children’s programs. Instructors are kind and patient. My children LOVE books so a trip to the library results in coming home with anywhere from 3 to 3 dozen books. My son LOVES to take out DVD’s although we rarely end up watching them before they come back. What I DON’T bring my children to the library for is to play with computers and tablets and video game systems.

LUCKILY, at the Keshen Goodman Library, you have to walk directly past the computers and ipads in order to get to the children’s play area. Trains? I don’t think so pops. Magnetic alphabet? Up yours. Taking a kid past an iPad is like taking them THROUGH a candy factory and handing them a stick of broccoli. This is, according to my son, “terrible”.

At the Halifax Central Library, the iPads are placed a LITTLE bit more out of the way and it takes a little more exploring to find them but once one child finds them, don’t worry… they will let EVERYONE else know where the iPads are. They also have several video games systems because nothing says “valuable learning” like Lego Avengers.

They also have Minecraft. Now, Minecraft is a prime example of a game with some extraordinarily positive qualities. The planning and building aspects of this game are developing a new generation of engineers and architects. THESE are not the children that play Minecraft at the public library. The public library Minecraft players go straight for the axes and fire, bludgeoning their buildings to death and then lighting them on fire.

OCCASIONALLY I see something good happening on one of the public computers but it’s usually first person shooters, wildly inappropriate videos or more Minecraft.

The library has made public their reasoning for providing these electronic devices to youth. And the reasons make sense. This gives less fortunate children the opportunity to use tools that would otherwise be unavailable to them. That’s true. Maybe those kids WOULDN’T be burning down buildings and chest bumping each other about headshots. Maybe they would have to…read…or write…or sing…or play outdoors. Furthermore, a good portion of the parents I see whose kids are dominating the iPad and Minecraft are drinking lattee’s from porcelain cups made to look like disposable cups and have coach purses or a Nixon watch. These kids are going home to play Minecraft on their own personal tablets in a lot of cases.

Study after study has suggested that using tablets and computers in this particular way has no educational merit. In fact, by exposing kids who don’t play on an iPad all day to that experience, there’s some suggestion that not only might you be not helping, you might be doing some harm. And you’re talking to someone who believes video games are INCREDIBLE and gave a talk about the inherent value of Dungeons & Dragons. I’m not just some sad, angry dad who’s annoyed. I mean, I am a sad, angry dad who’s annoyed. I’m sad that we make such strides in engineering and architecture only to plop kids in front of a screen and tell them to watch something while we tweet about how hard parenting is… (which, FYI, it totally is.) I’m angry that an organization that have the ability to use data ignore it. And I’m annoyed that a trip to the library no longer has anything to do with books.

P.S. We still go to the library like once a week so I can have a coffee and tweet mean things about people while my kids play with iPads.