The Wonder of the Library

Today there’s debate about the value of libraries in our all-electronic, all-Internet world. One blogger boldly declared that:

“Generation “C” (content) has no use for a library.”

How sad! He’s missed the very reason why libraries are essential. Commentators like him mistake the mere acquisition of information as the sole motive for those rows on rows of books. He elevates the value of speed in acquiring information as the greatest virtue for this Generation “C”. Thus, in the pursuit of speed, books are passe, relics of a bygone technology like scrolls or tablets, fatally flawed as too slow for contemporary users. Welcome to Google, blogs, and Twitter! Lightning fast and satisfying! It’s just what we need to solving personal and global problems.


Oh, I agree that one possible use of a library is in fact to locate information. But it is far more than that. If all a library is is a fat encyclopedia, then more power to Wikipedia! Who can beat real-time updates? Who can beat its breathtaking number of topics? But a library goes beyond that. It offers truly unique features for those who open their minds to possibilities.

What is a library then? A wonder!

When I enter a library, what I see are not rows of musty books. What I see is a vast sea of wonderful people–all attired in their Sunday best, all eager even anxious for me to meet them! I am beckoned to a thousand wonderful conversations with great minds, honed arguments, vivid images, endless experiences painted in language that embarks you on a journey of epic proportions! It’s a vast open conversation–fresh, intense, and at length each time.

In contrast, a, if not the, major defect of the Internet is in fact its awesome and awful variety. The millions of posts, blogs and articles suffer from an excruitiating range in quality from the sublime to the abysmally inane. Google fails miserably in trying to rank sites evenly across all topics. It’s hit or miss for years as you struggle to find voices worth paying attention to. Trying to find a good, complete picture on the Internet today on most topics is like trying to find a good, reliable source about the Rebellion in Star Wars by asking the riff-raff at the cantina on Tatooine.

Even when you find the good writers worth paying attention to on the Internet, they can be rushed for output…leaving thoughts dangling and incomplete. And as your tastes and interests expand, once again you have to begin again to dig and struggle to find new resources. Time and opportunity is lost with site after site as all too often there’s an closed-minded agenda to the writing, ill-concealed and irritating. Proper decorum is abandoned for in-your-face soundbites that might make for good Tweets and scream “pick me! pick me!” for the writer’s fifteen seconds of online fame.

And I won’t even touch the cesspool of most comments posted online. Full of vitrol and bias, this tidal wave of commentary on virtually every blog, posting or site comes from a seeming endless sea of lost souls looking to berate, twist the topic to their latest gripe or push their own agenda. This isn’t conversation, this is a tower of bigots and babblers with nothing to show for it. Who has time for that?

On the other hand, at the library, the conversations through books are focused, well-crafted, polished, and extended. (This last point is important because few human areas of interest can possibly be explored in soundbites.) There’s power in learning how great minds discover, explore, and resolve problems or take advantage of opportunities from start to finish.

Now add the second wonder of the library, one so lacking in the Internet, Serendipity. What a joy it is to discover a new line of thought from several books juxtaposed on a shelf! Exciting inventions–mental or physical–come from the serendipity of two previously unconnected ideas. Ideas that might just come from bumping into a book on a shelf while in passing or by its neighbor.

Sadly, there’s no easy path to serendipity on the web. Oh, StumbleUpon tries. But what happens when the sites you find in those links are still shabby and unkempt? Nascent and not fully baked? Brilliant but waayy too brief? Compound this when you try to use Google in some way to help, but it has a hard time offering up quality contrasting sites. So how does one get the more complete picture?

Our problems today are not FACT problems, they are PEOPLE problems. To solve them we need depth, not just breadth. We can’t appreciate and resolve people problems through short posts and Tweets or Wikipedia articles and “just the facts”. It takes conversation…many profound conversations with people who have resolved people problems before. Conversations we can have at libraries with the best minds. That’s the essence of the Library.

The power then of the Internet adds to the wonder of the Library, not subtracts from it. Together, they make much more effective conversations between us possible. And that’s what we need now.

What good is college??

What does “higher education” mean when almost the entire world’s information is accessible online in Wikipedia, et. al.? Actually, it’s been some time since the real value of a college education was to gather and memorize a set of facts about one’s field.

The value of a real college education is learning how to:

  • Think critically
  • Locate information
  • Evaluate the quality of information
  • Act effectively on information
  • Develop productive social skills
  • Develop a social network
  • Validate these skills with the sheepskin

If schools focused on even the first, users would move away from simply cribbing content from Wikipedia and its relatives. For example, try this for an exam:

Review the Wikipedia [Fox News, New York Times, Drudgereport] article on _______________. Critically evaluate its content for factual errors, bias, or assumptions. Produce a revised version incorporating corrections as needed.

Yes, You Can!

Welcome to It’s Never Boring with Dave Doering!

I’ll start by saying “Yes, you can!”

Science fiction fans like to ask who will create a faster-than-light drive. The someone who says “there can’t be anything faster than light” or the one who says “I wonder how it would be possible?”

I love being a science fiction fan and being with other fans. Why? Because when you get two of us together we are ready to say “Yes, we can!” and do something–like start a con.

So when I face the challenge every day about our future–my personal future and our shared future on this planet–I look for the possibilities. Read today’s headline that the end of our civilization is upon us. I say “Yes, there’s challenges and we will overcome these challenges.”

Why? Because despite the appearance of statistics or data to support their positions, naysayers are blinded by three flawed beliefs:

  1. Yesterday defines tomorrow.
  2. Man is the mistake.
  3. We don’t have the resources.

Yesterday defines tomorrow

Not a chance. It may suggest patterns, but it does not define it. Whole new paradigms may appear overnight to completely change tomorrow.

Ask Drs. Barry Marshall and Robin Moore. Together they overturned a century of mainstream medical belief that insisted ulcers came from stress. By revealing that ulcers were in fact caused by bacteria, they exposed the then current treatment of ulcers as the equivalent of leaches and bleeding for overcoming disease.

Ask Bill Gates, Netscape, and the four universities on the original Internet. They’ve overturned a century of sales, publishing, and social interaction paradigms in less than ten years.

Man is the mistake.

The greatest power on earth is the human mind. No force can resist it. And what a power for good!

How wonderful it is to live in an age as we see the triumph of the Rule of Law over the Law of the Jungle. How wonderful to see that our weakest citizens–infants, the handicapped, the chronically-ill and AIDs suffers–are now protected, supported and enabled as never before ever in the history of the world.

There are those who fear this power in themselves. They rush to constrain, control, and suppress this power using armies and police or in the name of God.

But Our Creator is not jealous of our improving our world and our condition, he wants us to shine. Rather than a error to be removed, we are here as the solution.

We don’t have the resources.

We do not suffer from a lack of resources–we lack creative thinking. That we have safer cars today yet get twice the gas mileage of 20 or 30 years ago. That we have the Internet. That we have instant communication to any part of the planet. That future careers offer far greater fulfillment than the mere paper processing of fifty years ago (remember steno pools?)

By changing the nature of work, the traditional “Third World” doesn’t require a ravenous appetite for resources to move ahead. Instead, the lessons learned elsewhere have propelled places like Vietnam forward without those intervening steps to both feed and fulfill their people’s potential.


Yes, there is a thrill to greet each day with “yes, I can” and ask “So now, how am I going to do it?”

So let’s go find out!

Hello world!

Dave Doering is once again about to embark on the blogging journey … we’ll see what prose he is able to compose!

Dave … welcome to the blogosphere!