Who among us wasn’t astounded, as a child, when the rules of the library were first explained? Take any book we want? Return it when we’re done? And pay nothing? Too good to be true. I became an instant library aficionado.
I recall being shocked, as a precocious 6- or 7-year-old, when, upon asking my mother how much we paid each month for television, was informed it was free.
This made no sense. We paid a phone bill. We paid a water bill and an electric bill. The fact that we could tune into any station we wanted — any of the five that were available in the early 1970s — anytime we wanted and pay nothing seemed to me a stunning oversight on somebody’s part.
Turns out, I was a couple of years ahead of my time. Pay TV, in the form of HBO and the parade of cable stations that followed, was just around the corner.
But I’ll never forget the satisfying feeling — all too rare — that came with the realization that there were some things in life that seemed, well ... fair.
Same with libraries. Who among us wasn’t astounded, as a child, when the rules of the library were first explained? Take any book we want? Return it when we’re done? And pay nothing? Too good to be true.
I became an instant library aficionado, working my way up from children’s books to sports biographies to professional periodicals like the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (hey, I said I was precocious).
My love of libraries was reinforced in college. When I finally got around to applying for my work-study assignment, several weeks into the semester, I figured I was headed to one of the cafeterias for 20 hours a week of skullduggery — or whatever the word was for doing hundreds of dishes. But in a welcome example of good fortune and/or good timing, I entered the personnel office just hours after a student worker resigned from the school library. Instead of spending my work hours scouring plates or dishing out chicken a la leftovers, I was immersed in books. What a break!
Nowadays, I tend to drop into my local library with no real aim (I drop into most places this way, actually). I’ll run my eyes over the new releases and take a chance on a book based on its author, or cover art, or — more likely — page count. There’s a certain wholesome joy to selecting the next book you’re going to read, and a library — with its random treasures and wallet-friendly policy — compounds it.
Unfortunately, the current coming-of-age generation will never know the sublime pleasure of stumbling onto cost-free entertainment — mainly because it has grown up surrounded by it.
Generation Internet has pretty much had the world at its fingertips since it was old enough to use those fingertips to operate a mouse and keyboard. All manner of distraction and information is readily accessible, often at no cost. Oh sure, the actual computer required an investment — likely by a parent. But a few quarters a day for online service covers the rest.
This is unlike my own increasingly doddering generation. We couldn’t download videos for free — we had to rent or buy them. Buy them? Kids today are just as likely to make them and post them online. They’re no Palme d’Or nominees but, then, neither is anything Adam Sandler is in.
Of course, my own elders used to tell me how much more fulfilling it was to listen to serials on the radio, rather than watching them on TV. “You could use your imagination!” You could, I thought; but fortunately, I don’t have to.
And so it is interesting to try and imagine what the children of our current teenagers and young adults will someday turn to for everyday enjoyment: A 3D Kindle that narrates books with music and video? Interactive television that, through electronic skin patches and a visor, puts viewers in the seat next to a NASCAR driver during a Sprint Cup race? A device that scans a person’s face and body, digitizes the data, and makes them the “star” of popular big-screen films?
Such wonders are surely on the horizon. Still, I’d recommend the library.
Contact Messenger Managing Editor Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770/Ext. 257 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.