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Librarian Blog

Hard to believe

I can see why they banned "Lolita."

And "Little Black Sambo."

And "Peyton Place."

But "A Light in the Attic?"

How many kids have grown up having read Shel Silverstein's classic work of poetry? Millions? I dunno.

How many of them were turned into raging killers because "A Light in the Attic" was some kind of gateway read?

This is Banned Books Week across America, time to recognize that school boards and state officials are still banning books here and there.

I'm sure they all believe they are preserving innocence, protecting their children. And at some extreme ends of the spectrum they probably are.

But in this day and age I'm much more concerned about every other medium out there that ought to be carefully scrutinized than I am worried about books, especially children's books.

For example, plug the word "porn" into Google and see what you get. That's pretty scary. Much scarier than anything you'd find in most libraries and bookstores.

Slow it down

Read slow, learn more and feel more relaxed.

That's a formula explored in a Wall Street Journal article this past week. Jeanne Whalen has rounded up data from a number of studies for her piece, which shows that without a doubt if you slow down when you read you will be much better off for it.

But, as she also notes, today that just isn't happening. In fact, the opposite is the case. People want to zip through everything they read (and do, for that matter). They tend to treat literature like they do e-mail -- something to get through as quickly as possible.

Now, here and there around the globe people are actually coming together to s-l-o-w down their reading and to thus up their enjoyment of the habit.

I recommend her three tips for your consideration:

+ Go to a place without distractions. Turn off the phone and computer.

+ Take notes here and there. That helps you have a dialog with the author.

+ Treat reading like exercise, something you take time for.

Click ... click ... click ...

For all of probably 10 years after I became a journalist, in 1966, the only input devices we had were typewriters.

For a few of those years, we used standard Royal typewriters, then switched to IBM Selectrics at some point.

When we finally switched over to keyboards what I really missed the most was the clacking sound of my own hands on the keys and all the clatter of everyone typing around me.

The Sunday magazine in the New York Times tells me that management at The Times of London missed that sound, too, as well as, I guess, the productivity that accompanied the clicks and clacks.

So, The Times' newsroom now has the sound of old typewriters piped into the newsroom. The New York Times says the reason is to inspire reporters to meet deadlines.

We had mean city editors to do that when I was a kid.

A time to study

We may be entering a golden era for teachers and students.

Or that would be the case if I were the teacher or the student.

Mutli-media courses are just exploding, and they promise to make the learning experience richer and more fun than ever.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about: The Libray of Congress has launched a new interactive e-book series for students and teachers, and it's all free.

Better still, these six courses are based on original source materials that learners can actually see up close and personal.

The "discovery sets" are: The Constitution, The Dust Bowl, The Harlem Renaissance, Immigration, Symbols of the United States and Understanding the Cosmos.

The discovery set on the Constitution includes the drafts and the debates that brought the finished document and the Bill of Rights into being, including notes of the framers.

The set on The Dust Bowl includes songs, maps and photos documenting the daily ordeals of the rural families that suffered through this decade.

See what I mean? With its vast resources, the LoC is the perfect originator of this material.

What a great service.

Wearing out the thumb

Last month I had surgery on my hand to remove the trapezium bone at the base of the thumb.

I had the bone removed because my hand was in pain all the time ... 24/7.

Today I went back to the doctor who did the procedure for a checkup. I'm doing fine, as it happens.

After the visit, I headed into the elevator and was joined by a young man and a young woman. Neither looked at me, of course, because they -- you guessed it -- were both checking and sending text messages on their phones.

Both were using their thumbs as input devices, and, boy, were those thumbs getting a workout.

So in the interest of promoting the public's health, I raised my arm with its blue splint and said, "Excuse me. But I wanted you guys to realize that because of what you're doing with your thumbs, you're going to have the surgery I just had much soon than I have had to have it."

The woman did not even look up.

The guy said, "Oh, gosh, I don't really do this that much."

Yeah. Right.

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