Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Library, Revisited

After all my complaints about the computer users at the library, I thought I'd best tell this story that happened there a few days ago, to present the other side of the story.

I entered the library, armed with my box of microfilm, as usual, and took my seat at the microfilm reader. A boy sat at the computer closest to me, about fourteen years old or so, I would guess.

He immediately looked up when I sat down, and as he saw me put the reel on the machine, asked, "What's that?"

"A microfilm reader," I replied, wondering if further explanation was needed (do 14 year olds know what microfilm is these days?) or not. He didn't say anything, but just nodded and turned back to his computer, and I proceeded with my work.

About ten minutes went by. He must have been thinking and processing all this in his head the whole time or something, because suddenly, he looked up again and whispered, "Is that like, to read old newspapers or something?"

I nodded, and he said, "Cool." Turned back to his computer, and I went on, though admittedly surprised that he had taken an interest at all.

A few minutes later he got up from his chair and came and stood behind me, watching over my shoulder. I didn't say anything at first, just continued, but when he continued to watch, I looked back at him, and he said, "What year are those newspapers from?"

"1955," I answered, and his eyes just lit up. "COOL," he says. "WOW, that is SO COOL. I can't believe they keep newspapers that old!"

Insert pause, while everyone who was alive during 1955 cringes... because even at my age (30s) I don't think 1955 is very old...

Aha, I thought. This is more than idle curiosity. This kid is really interested.

So I showed him where the cabinets are for the local newspapers, and said, "Here are all the newspapers they keep of our paper, if you ever want to look at them sometime."

"COOL!" he said again, and actually started going through the cabinets and taking out rolls and just GAZING at them. Had there been more than one microfilm reader, or had I been nice enough to get up and let him have a turn (which I wasn't), I've no doubt he would have sat there and scrolled through old newspapers the rest of the afternoon. As it was, he kept returning just to watch me. He asked what I was looking for, and if I was doing "a report or something." He seemed genuinely interested. I've no doubt that the next time he goes to the library, assuming I'm not hogging the machine as I have a tendency to do, he'll be experimenting with it. :)

It gave me hope. Perhaps there is intelligent life left in some of today's teenagers after all. Maybe our future isn't completely doomed. :)

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