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Carolyn Howard Johnson

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a multi award-winning novelist, poet and author of the HowToDoItFrugally series of how-to books. She occasionally teaches classes for the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program.

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1998 - 2014 All rights reserved.

Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Ruminating on Libraries

Unfortunately, about the only time I get to go to a library these days is when they invite me to present or read. And that’s sad.

I neglect libraries because I can do most of the research I need to do at home. Using books I’ve collected over the years that are now spilling out of shelves and onto the floor. Using the Internet. It doesn’t take as much time to do it that way, and I save driving time and gas.

Some libraries think they have folks like me pegged. According to Time magazine, Arizona’s Tucson Pima Public Library system “opened a branch without books” in 2002. I can almost hear them thinking . . . All-digital libraries will appeal to the new, young researcher, the new reader. And we’ll save money because we won’t have to store all those books (space costs money after all!). And we won’t have to hire those many of those librarians (who also cost money but also make the library experience one of the main reasons I miss it!). Well, that library failed.

Now the folks at San Antonio’s Bexar County Digital Library think the time has come again.

In a semi related story, a prominent business in Los Angeles changed their office format. No more offices for the big guys and gals. No more cubicles for the laborers. Open space. Sunny windows. Lockers to stow computers in at the end of the day. The idea is that people who are interacting with one another tend to be more productive.

Well, here’s a bulletin for both libraries and businesses. People who are staring at a screens don’t interact with one another—at libraries, in offices, or anywhere else. My husband and I were traveling. We stopped at a resort island in the Mediterranean called Ibiza, got a sorbet, and sat in a park to watch the locals. Two young men had come to the park together. Unfortunately they both had smart phones. So they sat on a centuries-old wall and watched their screens. They may have been texting one another instead of using the old fashioned way of communicating called vocal chords.

Of course, I realize that e-mail and Facebook are valuable. And that people do interact there. But it’s different. We’re losing face-to-face social skills. But we’re losing a lot more than that. I read that a library in Virginia was downsizing. They were selling off all books that hadn’t been loaned in a year. Among them were a lot of Dickens and To Kill a Mockingbird. So, it seems, we’re also losing perspective.

So here’s my thing. Let’s fund our libraries. Let’s take the best from both the digital world and the world of printer’s ink. Let’s keep our old skills even as we develop new ones. And, yes, let’s let our libraries evolve for the new age. The library recently rebuilt in Alexandria Egypt did a great job of updating it’s predecessor, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. We can do the same thing

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

A Tip for Writers: :

Read Wally Lamb’s We Are Water. Go for the story, but notice technique. Especially how he treats ungrammatical dialogue and characterization of very unlikeable characters.

A Tip for Readers' Tip:

If you like military anything and have a bit of the feminist in you, read Joyce Faulkner’s Windshift. It’s only $3.99 on Kindle.

2013 Past Columns

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