Alchemical Thoughts

Is the enemy really us? Maybe

Posted on: July 7, 2010

That there is a lack of good manners going on these days is pretty much a given. From loud and rude pundits in the media to kids who basically think they are special because they got an award for showing up, there are days when I wonder about the future of our civilization. Lack of charity and empathy seem to be common threads for a lot of people. But I may be getting a little ahead of myself. I wanted to jot down that I read this article from a recent LOEX Quarterly issue. Since these are just some half-baked thoughts, ideas I have been pondering here and there, I am just tossing it here in the old scratch pad rather than making a larger post over at the professional blog. Who knows, I may revisit this sometime, or maybe use it as part of a larger post. 

The citation in full for the item is as follows:

LaBaugh, Ross.,"Ross' Rave: We Have Met the Enemy, and He Is Us." LOEX Quarterly 36.4 (Winter 2010): 11-12.

This short piece made me stop and think a moment because the author is looking at a young 20-something person (what is called a Millenial by the twopointopians these days, to borrow the term from the Annoyed Librarian) who is mostly hooked into her visual and electronic world. The author places her in contrast to the elderly patron with dementia who listens to old radio serials. Ross raises an interesting question about the young girl when she writes, "
she can mimic, but can she construct? . . . . She has little capacity to wonder, to create, to imagine, to see the story in her head. She's a skimmer" (11). It is this skimming ability, if you can call it that, that the twopointopians often celebrate when they keep advocating that libraries become social media centers and game arcades. Sure, many Millenials can mash up and remix samples of music and video, but can they go beyond that? Can they truly imagine and visualize? Can they go past the surface?

But Ross tells us that not all the fault lies in the kid. She writes,

"We drove her to play dates as she watched Elmo on her backseat DVD player. We gave her awards for just showing up, and bragged on our bumpers that she was an honor student. We scheduled homework time, between ballet and dance, and gave her Lunchables, a Mac, and a cell phone. We helicoptered when her teacher gave her a B, and screamed at the coach when she didn't get enough field time. In our misguided attempt to look after our children, we, instead, indulged and entitled them" (11).

Back in my days as a public school teacher, I used to say that all it took to know why a kid was messed up (whether discipline problem, excessive over-entitlement, etc.) was to look at the parents. Once I met the parents, a lot made sense. You can tell a lot about kids now by looking at their parents and their parenting skills, or the lack of said skills. I am a parent myself, so I tend to despair when I see how lax, and often just how neglectful, a lot of parents are. Really? Your parents did not teach you not to put your feet up on the furniture? Ross actually makes reference to one of these cases in her article, and yet, this type of behavior is in fact celebrated in the more "progressive libraries:" sure, let them move the furniture so they can get together in small groups. We can't tell them not to put their feet up; that would be harassment or, as I recently heard, if we tell such we are creating a "stale and antiquated environment" (yes, those were the exact words). I don't necessarily have the answer other than to ask those who celebrate such lack of common matters if I can come to their homes, eat my chicken wings on their couch while putting my feet up on their coffee table. I wonder what the reply would be then. Because if I have learned anything in librarianship, administrators and idealistic hip librarians tend to promulgate policies as long as it does not affect them personally. The thing is the library, as a space, is everyone's living room, so to speak.

Ross discusses a couple of other issues. Another line that stuck with me was this one: "Too often, I worry about a growing disrespect for the many, hard working professionals (like us!) who make libraries possible" (12). I worry about that now and then. And at times, I notice that some of the disrespect comes from our own colleagues and brethren who at times get some need or urge to denigrate or question our professional nature. Yes, as Ross stated, we are hard working professionals, and we should embrace that. Just a thought.


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