The Media Center, a.k.a. The Library


Decatur has opened a new high school: Austin High.

The new high school had an “open house” for the public a few months back, and my wife and I decided it would be interesting to go see how it looks. How is it different from schools of ancient times, that is to say, when we were teens? I was also curious from a writer’s standpoint. I was, at the time, rewriting the chapter where my biology teacher protagonist is wrapping up her school year and cleaning up her science lab; hence, I definitely wanted to check out the science lab. We found it quite easily.

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Sadako’s first comment was: “It looks like the science lab I went to.” I could only agree. It looked exactly like every high school science lab I had ever seen. There were maybe six or seven stations with black tops. (We had those in 1966.) Each station included a sink, water spout and a gas line. There was a line of storage cabinets along the wall. Cabinets no one could reach.

We moved on. The gymnasium was nice—but again, no surprises. Classrooms were…classrooms. The seating for students was interesting. The two-seater desks seem to suggest collaborative effort, which is a good thing. I thought the plant and the lamp on the teacher’s desk gave the room a nice homey touch. What I felt was a bit odd was  that in every classroom, as seen in the Math classroom below, hung a rather large American flag. Is the jingoism necessary? Do our millennial students need to be told every second of the day that this is America? It just seems a bit much.

After peering into several classrooms, (They were all the same.) we decided to visit the school library. It was not easy to find. We had to ask several students who were stationed at strategic points. “Where’s the library?”

“Oh, you mean the Media Center.”

“Ah.” We were pointed in a general direction. And after a few wrong turns…we found it.

Dear friends, dear blogger friends, let us join hands and bow our heads and grieve together. How sad it was. How disappointing. How utterly pathetic. Words fail me….

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As you can see, books are NOT the emphasis here. In fact just to look at the titles you have practically crawl on your hands and knees.  The tables that seat five students have computer hook ups. I’m not sure if that means that students bring their own laptops or if the school provides such, I don’t know.

The wall of windows is interesting. I think its purpose is for students to hand signal each other—that it’s time to go!

I took a “closer look” at the books themselves. A general subject section revealed a very cozy set of books. For instance, one can see the engaging title: Thanksgiving by Appelbaum. Now whether or not a millennial student is hot to check that one out, I can’t say, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

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But let’s move on to the literary section.

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This was a hoot. I was happy to see Joseph Conrad’s collection of stories, but why is it sitting next to Toni Morrison’s two novels: Song of Solomon and The Bluest Eye? And why are Toni Morrison’s works next to Heller’s Catch 22? And then, I Heard the Owl Call My Name, which was published in 1980. Authored by Margaret Craven, it’s a novel that chronicles life of Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest. Okay. The fact is the books are a hodgepodge, hit or miss collection, all out of order, as if they were simply shoved onto the shelf straight out of the moving boxes, revealing the obvious fact: nobody gives a damn.

Sadako called my attention to a Japanese novel. I rushed over to see if they had my favorite author, Yasunari Kawabata. No, they didn’t. They had a manga.

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High School Debut. As you see it addresses the question: Who doesn’t need a love “coach” in high school? It looked as if it had been checked out quite often!

The sad fact is, in this particular high school, grades ten through twelve, the library, whoops, Media Center, is not a place that even remotely encourages the reading of books. If I were a student would I choose to read High School Debut over, say, Toni Morrison or Joseph Conrad? Of course I would. That’s my point. I had teachers who could and did direct my reading because I didn’t know what was out there. I don’t have a problem with a student reading High School Debut but I also want them to read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye or The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings or Native Son by Richard Wright. Is it too much to ask?

What are your thoughts on the purpose or need for a school library? Should it be there or abolished altogether?

 

22 thoughts on “The Media Center, a.k.a. The Library

  1. jim-

    Are you in Decatur Alabama? That is a pretty pathetic library. Sorry man. Students here in Washington carry their issues laptop, so a plug in station is all you need, and our library is just as bad. But that library looks disuadative, if that’s a word. Is this a subtle, end around equivalent to book burning? Where’s the influential aura of scholarship?

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    1. Paul Post author

      Yeah, I’m in red-state Alabama. I saw the same sort of thing happening in Mississippi as well, that is, the local school library becoming disuadative. Ha! Well it ain’t a word, but then our school libraries aren’t libraries either, so I think you’re on to something!

      While I didn’t mention it, I think you are quite right about the book burning. One only has to work backwards. The assorted books in the “Media Center” are obviously books that once were part of larger collections in another library. Where did those other books go? Either the incinerator or a recycle bin. Who knows? It’s depressing.

      Thanks for reading!

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      1. jim-

        I was working at the high school here last year. We tried to give the books away because if the new “media center” and they stopped us because it was school property with an accountability/money trail involved, so we had a book sale. Very few people bought books, small town USA, the rest got thrown I the dump. Sad really, some of the books were old copies and collectible. Wish I’d taken them all, but lack the space.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Paul Post author

        I remember a great “New Yorker” cartoon where a young boy, holding a book, looks up at his dad who is sitting in his easy chair, watching television. The boy asks, “Can you read?”

        Much more relevant now than when it was published in the eighties. I don’t know. It’s a different world. I drive a bus every Wednesday to pick up kids for an after school Boys/Girls club. The other day one of the kids asked me to turn on the radio. I did. Every one of them started singing along with the hip hop song being played. They all knew the lyrics by heart. They know tons of lyrics. These kids are not so interested in reading books, but they know those songs. I’m not complaining. It’s the way of the world.

        I love books. I love reading. So, I read. I think what’s so painful about the miserable excuse for a school library is that it’s such an obvious lie.

        Frankly I think the students would be better off if the school simply got rid of the books and created a sound room where the kids could write hip hop or R&B or rock lyrics and sing them to each other. At least they’d be involved with language and in a format they can relate to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. daleydowning

    School libraries in too many states are becoming a joke. In some areas, people just don’t see the need, partly because of the rise of technology. But I’d like to point out that in nations where technology and literacy are balanced, they have better economies, better rates of higher education, and overall more successful and happier citizens. If I had the money/influence/magical power, I’d lobby with the Dept of Ed to get their heads out of their butts when it comes to funding school libraries. Kids who were born in 2005 do NOT give a damn about the classics – they’re drowning in those in English class, and fail to see the connection to their own lives already. They should be able to go to the library down the hall from class and find titles by current bestselling authors. Especially in more rural communities, where kids will most likely never walk a mile in someone else’s shoes without a little push. Which indicates an even bigger problem in this country under the surface, but I won’t get started on that right now. 😛

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    1. Paul Post author

      Daley, I agree with you on every point. One of the best questions we had on our exit exam for our student teachers was to develop a “reading list” for a student who wants to increase his awareness of …and we’d have a short list, e.g. African American lit, Women’s lit, Coming of Age novels, gothic novels and so on. I hate to think what the results of such a question might be now-a-days.

      Reading is a time investment and in this hi-tech culture of ours if anything takes over thirty seconds to read then it’s a problem. The irony is that our youth will spend hours reading hundreds of tiny info bites. Sigh.

      I think if you handed a student a novel by George Eliot they’d consider it to be a prison sentence.

      Thanks for reading and the meaningful reply.

      Liked by 3 people

      Reply
  3. Tina Williams

    This pathetic library indeed makes my heart sore. Now, if they had a digital catalog where a student could download a book onto their device, I’d feel a bit better about it. Books don’t necessarily have to be paper to be read. I’m just grateful that I’ve passed on my love of reading to my daughter, who’s nine now and I think will will continue to love reading the rest of her life. She’s eager to go to her school’s book fair tomorrow and buy some books!

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Paul Post author

      Good for you and very good for your daughter. You know, the whole reading thing starts at home. That library reflects to some extent an anti book culture. Hopefully students do have e-readers and are using them.

      Thank you for that insight. And thanks for reading. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  4. calmkate

    Fascinating post Paul … to me the prominence of the flags indicates a sincere insecurity, we only flew ours out front of the school 😦
    Library is woeful, they are my favourite places to visit be it school, uni or municipal … as you say no encouragement what so ever to use the venue let alone read the motley collection 😦

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    1. Paul Post author

      Thank you for reading Kate. What can I say, the flag business took me by surprise. As in your experience, our school flew a flat outside the main building, but that was it. A full size flag in every classroom mind you, is weird.
      I wish they’d put that kind of attention into their library holdings!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Moushmi Radhanpara

    Hi Paul, I am grieving already!!! You call that a library? 😦
    It was just sad to look at. I have a bigger collection in my own room than, what you show in the picture.
    And I don’t need to say this, I guess, but I will go ahead and voice my opinion. Books and library need not, CANNOT be abolished. I cannot reason with this, it is just mandatory in my opinion. That look was depressing for me!!
    Now if you will excuse me, I will have to go and stare at my mini collection of books, to make myself believe that it’s still there.

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. candyyork

    Wow, Paul, I’m shocked. The library here at the elementary school is about 50 times larger than the one you showed. That is so sad. I am in Northern Virginia though, and for the most part the school funding here is excellent because we pay high taxes based on high salaries based on all the government stuff around here. Of course, houses here are also expensive – a house in the rural areas of Virginia could go for $200K and in Northern Virginia, 15 miles outside of DC, it’s an $800K+ house. Books are always going to be important – thank goodness some of us still feel that way!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Paul Post author

      I have a feeling the schools in Huntsville, home of Van Braun & Co., are equipped with much better libraries…i.e., libraries with books. Rural America keeps falling further and further behind.
      Thanks for reading and for the excellent reply.

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    1. Paul Post author

      Lovely! How are you dear heart? I’ve been soooo out of the ol blogging game for a couple months. Summer was hot and tough. But it’s now fall and nice cool weather.

      It’s so good to hear from you. I’m still working on the revision of the novel. No, I’m not teaching! Hahaha. No more of that. But you are, right? How’s the teaching going? I hope all is well for you. Let me know. Thank you so much for responding. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Lovely

        😀 Good and Beautiful.
        Here is some update about my life right now.
        https://my4leafclover.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/be-grateful-10-happy-things-for-july-and-august-2018-monthly-edition/
        In our country, it’s raining most of the time. I really thought you are back in teaching again because you posted something about the library in a highschool. I am still teaching. I teach senior highschool students now. haha.
        It was challenging still. Good thing I don’t need to manage tantrums and crying stuffs like that. I need to be wiser in dealing with this age group actually. hehe. Stay in touch. I would love to see your novel published. haha ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ink 'em Down

    Thank you, Paul, for yet another engaging and relevant post!
    I’m actually upset seeing this library; it’s so disappointing. I’m a millennial and as an avid reader, can’t live without a good library around. At the first job after graduation (in cancer research), I could only read anything work-related: online scientific review and research papers. I didn’t have time for novels. Growing up in the Harry Potter era, I missed fiction and hardcovers. When I took a career break, the first thing I did was buy a novel (Origin by Dan Brown)! Can’t tell you how happy I was reading a hardcover again!
    On the side, as a Biotechnology major during undergrad (which was not long ago), I actually took up a module called ’21st Century Fiction’ offered by the English Language and Literature Department. We had to read and analyze 4 books in 4 months! I was so happy in that class lol.

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