Tuesday, March 07, 2006

If you can't beat 'em....

I attended a librarian meeting this morning. Part of the meeting was a presentation by a book rep for a publisher of children's material.

Now, my particular forte is reference work; I've never worked as a children's librarian. I don't know much about children's books, though since I will be a grandmother this summer (eek!) I'm finding myself looking more closely at children's materials than I had before.

Most of the material seemed to be fairly typical children's stuff. There were books with neato tactile areas. (Oooh! Fuzzy! Scratchy!) There were books with handy features like big tabs, so little fingers could more easily turn the pages.

The thing that made me sit up straight and pay attention, however, was a marriage between a number of these books and the Internet. There's a whole selection of these books - primarily geared towards an older audience of elementary-age children - that features Internet links as a path to additional information. Want to know more about the pyramids? Want to know more about Canadian cooking?

Now, there are a few things about all this that I find fascinating. First of all, instead of following the path of denial and disavowing any knowledge of or interest in the Internet and all it has to offer, this publisher is embracing it. This "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach is not only brilliant, it's good sense. In my recent grad school experience, there were a number of library "experts" who were bemoaning the emergence of the Internet into our lives. There was much wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth over the imminent demise of the library as a result. One of our textbooks even had this viewpoint, for crying out loud. It was incredibly refreshing to see a publisher that, instead of whining about this new competitor, was working to see how they could take advantage of the new technolgy.

Secondly, if you wander around the links provided, you will note that this is not original material. A number of the sites are the work museums, colleges and universities, and government entities. Why reinvent the wheel? All in all, brilliant.

Now, we all need to take another look at how we're looking at the Internet and all of its resultant technological whiz-bang. Are we wringing our hands, wondering when our libraries will be redundant? Are we digging in our heels, vowing to never blog/allow IM/offer wireless/play games? Or...are we looking at ways that we can not only embrace the new technology, but take advantage? How can we leverage our knowledge and expertise with this new resource, to the advantage of our libraries, our patrons, and ourselves?

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