Discovery of a Teen Book Club Made Me Proud.
I was working out in my back yard recently when my next-door neighbor’s daughter called out to me and waved. I waved back and asked how she was doing, and she told me that she was great and that she and her friends were just discussing a book they had read.
I figured that it was probably some school project that they had to complete until I found out that the book was one in the Harry Potter series, and that she and her friends had formed a teen book club. She told me they read a book every month, and then got together to discuss it and trade perspectives.
My heart leaped when I heard this, because I had been part of a teen book club when I was growing up, and even then that whole phenomenon seemed to be going the way of the dodo. As I continued to work, I listened in on some of the comments they were making, and I was very impressed.
They were not just talking about things they thought were cool in the book, although there was a lot of that, but they were talking about actual literary devices, like themes and symbols, and discussing characters and plot twists. I really could not believe what I was hearing.
The meeting lasted for about an hour, and then they scattered. I called my neighbor’s daughter over to ask what kind of books they read. I completely expected to hear things like the Twilight series or other popular modern fiction but was once again amazed to find out that they were into the classics, as well.
She said the last book they read was “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck. I thought that was surely for a classroom project, but she assured me that it was not, and said that they had all really enjoyed it and even got together one evening at her house and watched the movie version with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise.
Their teen book club certainly tackled their share of more popular fiction, but there were a lot of great and timeless novels in there as well, such as “The Great Gatsby,” and “Huckleberry Finn.”
I asked her how it all got started, and she said that she had just started hanging out with a number of people who enjoyed reading and decided to form a teen book club. She said they would all agree on five or six books to choose from each month, and then take turns picking them.
I don’t know if my neighbor’s daughter is indicative of the average teenager or even if the teen book club is making a resurgence, but it did absolutely thrill me to see a group of young people sitting outside, discussing a book, instead of being parked in front of the television or computer.
Get a Library Card and Open Up Your World
Unfortunately, in today’s digital world, many kids do not acquire the love of reading that will help them throughout their adult life. Teachers and parents should encourage children and take them to their local library and get them their own personalized library cards. A library card is a virtual passport to other countries, worlds, and the unlimited potential of the human imagination.
The greatest writers in the world are all there in most public libraries, just waiting to be read and absorbed by a new generation of book lovers. The best library in San Francisco is the main branch of the public library and that will probably be the case in most major cities, with a few exceptions. Sometimes the best library is at your local university and you may have to be a student there in order to get a library card.
At any local branch, you will find enough books to keep you busy reading for a lifetime. The best thing you can do is acquire the habit of reading every day. Personally I read somewhere between two to five books each month, sometimes more. Next to my bed is a huge stack of books. My personal preference is fiction but I read just about anything and especially true-life adventure stories of survival.
One such great book that I took out of the library using my library card was “Skeletons on the Zahara” by Dean King. This amazing true-life survival story is about Captain James Riley who shipwrecked near the western coast of Africa in the mid 19th century. The horror and brutality of what happens to him and his crew could not be put into a movie or television show. King shows us a world that no longer exists and does so with a masterful touch.
Great stories are everywhere and none greater than the Russian classic “Crime and Punishment” which is Fyodor Dostoevsky at his finest. The story of a man haunted by a random act of brutal violence that he commits is a universal story of mankind.
Go running right now to the library and use your library card to check out “The Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. This is the fantastical and allegorical story of a boy who survives a horrifying shipwreck only to find himself adrift in a lifeboat at sea. His only other companion: a Bengal tiger. Incredible and a must-read.
If you want to learn something about war crimes and abuses of power you need to read “Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo” by Murat Kurnaz. Whether you are a Republican or Democrat, you cannot read this book without gasping in astonishment at the way this man was treated by our government.
You could spend days and days just walking around, taking down random books and getting lost in them. I always limit my time and use my library card to check out as many books as I can safely carry then take them to enjoy in the privacy of my own home.
Library automation brings any book to your local library
Before 1970, if you wanted to find a book in the library, you had to use the card catalog. This was arranged by either author or subject and employed the Dewey Decimal system which assigns a number to a book that is then stored on a bookshelf in Dewey Decimal order. Then, in the early seventies, with the introduction of relatively cheap computers and time-share computing, searching for a book in the library meant sitting at a CRT or monitor, entering your search criteria, and pressing a button. Cataloging books were no longer done manually, writing up a card and putting it in its proper place in a wooden catalog drawer. Instead, library cataloging required a data entry operator to enter the specifics of the book, still controlled by a competent librarian, into the computer where the information was stored on hard disks. Library science became library information science.
Library automation made it possible for seekers to use other criteria to search for a book, besides the standards of author name or book title. In these cases, if you didn’t know either, you had to query the librarian and had to have a pretty good idea what the book was about, some hint of who wrote it, and some idea of when it was published. With library automation, the criteria you can use to search for a book was extended. The power of information systems allows you to obtain a list of matching or nearly matching books, titles, authors, subjects, even lists of books by publishes for a given year. Now you can search by region, by country, by approximate dates of publication, by partial titles, partial author names, even by phrases that may appear in the book’s jacket or synopsis. Library automation makes the library a more user-friendly tool for researchers and students alike.
At first, library automation’s benefits were available only locally, for a given library or a set of closely housed libraries. Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, the computer revolution revolved again, rendering systems of intercommunicating computers. A state library located at its capital, for instance, would have its holdings cataloged on a central computer. A parish our county library might also have its holding cataloged on its own central computer. Until these two computers could share information, neither knew what the other had, but once intercommunicating computers took hold, the library at the capital could find books held by the library at the county and similarly, the county library could find books held at the capital library. Libraries could form federations using library automation, extending their offerings to their patrons such that thousands of books that were not available on site could be ordered from another library hundreds of miles away.
Library automation has had a tremendous impact on the availability of knowledge to the common man. Today, library science is more appropriately called library information science, resting as it does on the marvels of telecommunication and client-server computing. Today, you can expect to find any book you want at your local library or, thanks to computers, another associated library that will get that book to you in a matter of days. Knowledge is universal.