Did you know that not only are there entire books on fish, but there are entire books on single types of fish?
Much to my delight, my four year old sees the library as a treasure house of information. He’s not interested in the stories (although I push them every time), he just wants to head to the nonfiction section. Sometimes he has a topic in mind, but if not, we always end up looking at fish books.
This weekend, a book about sharks caught his eye, Sharks and Other Creatures of the Deep. As we read through it, I was really impressed at how much information they taught in a fun way. For example, they taught about ocean currents (and pollution) by talking about 29,000 rubber duckies that fell of a container ship in the Pacific and how they’ve been found from Hawaii to Greenland over time.
I think the best part of the book is the layout. It varies from page to page but really keeps little guys interested when they might not be able to follow whole pages of prose. (And even though I’d said I wasn’t going to read it right then, I found myself peering over his shoulder pointing things out.) And it’s not just about sharks … that was just the teaser.
(Last week the topic he was interested in was space, and with the librarians’ help, I managed to get my hands on a book I read over 25 years ago, The First Travel Guide to the Moon. That was fun.)
One Reply to “Actually, a good book on fish”
Congratulations on finding a good library for you kids. I think this will teach you and your child some lessons that are not in the books themselves.
I’m commenting here because I worry about the future of libraries in the face of digital restrictions. Most recent discussions that I’ve read about the future of libraries tend to miss some of the basics of what libraries are all about and this is a bad sign. Libraries are as much a product of community good will and trust as a producer of the same. Digital restrictions prevent people from sharing and this is antithetical to public libraries. Central repositories of vanishing books, owned and controlled by others are not an acceptable substitute for libraries.
I was lucky enough to grow up with good libraries. I lived in a house with a good book collection. My home town of New Orleans had a good local libraries and two major universities in walking distance. My parents took me to the local library when I was a kid and I found awesome technical books on things like masers, lasers and systems for nuclear axillary power. My grammar school had a nice little library and several free times a week were dedicated to it. Lots of my high school free time was spent in the nicely stocked school library and I had lots of happy time in university libraries researching stuff for the debate team. I still like hanging out in libraries but have too much work to do and I no longer live in a place with as many good libraries.
My library experiences didn’t depend on dead paper, they were a function of community but books are still important. The shelves of the libraries were stocked by interesting people and provided eclectic depth of subject matter. Universities, of course, are the next level of breadth and depth. While Wikipedia is coming close, most of the stuff I found in those libraries is still not in usable form on line.
Here’s some of the things people stand to lose when they hand over their library to Ammazon.
1. Verification of sources. If you don’t have local repositories of stories, periodicals, journals and books lose all credibility as honest stores of information. Free books have the critical advantage of verifiable trust.
2. Anonymous lending. A book that can only be lent by the publisher is a book that tells a powerful third party who reads what books. Because the US Department of Homeland Insecurity has already tried to build databases of risky people to monitor based on library records, this threat has already been demonstrated.
3. Local collections and feedback. Digitally restricted libraries offer all the diversity of RIAA record stores. Big book stores have a lot of good books but there are far more out there. The diversity of books we can find today in public libraries is the result of a relatively free society. People can donate their private collections to the public good, this builds knowledge, trust and community.
Communities should never let their collections be chosen by big publishers, but this is where non free software is taking us. Richard Stallman saw this years ago when he wrote The Right to Read. Ten years ago, people farcically pointed to public libraries when publishers were busy destroying mp3.com and Napster, saying that publishers would want libraries gone if they followed their greedy instincts. I decided they were right, the war against sharing is really a war of information and opinion control. The bargain of non free software is that you are so grateful for the software that you will do what you are told. The same deal is now being offered to public libraries and it is something that should be rejected.
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