Fuse #8

Friday, September 08, 2006

Oh, Brave New World

Today was the first meeting of the New York Public Library children's librarians for the current school year. It was the usual amalgamation of getting to know you type introductions, announcements on the traitors leaving us (only one, and I suppose the word "traitor" was not actually used), and who's giving birth to what (that would be Warren). Special guest Emily Jenkins came and spoke with us, which was faaabulous. First of all, I wrote the starred School Library Journal review for her newest book Toys Go Out, so that was neat. And of course Ms. Jenkins linked to me from her teen blog (written under the pseudonym E. Lockhart) when we were having that whole Meg Cabon/Clinique debacle. This allowed me to have the guts to say howdy, and she's just sweet as all get out. Funny too. If she ever happens to go on tour, I highly recommend y'all hire her for a speaking engagement or two. Charm incarnate, that woman.

Getting back to the meeting. Today was the day that we were introduced to a whole new aspect of our children's website entitled TumbleBooks. You guys can also access this without having an NYPL library card, so take note. Basically, it's a bunch of online picture books read aloud with moving graphics alongside the usual smattering of puzzles, games, what have you. It's fairly new technology, offering one-on-one storytimes via the internet. To my surprise, though, this addition was met with a great deal of hissing and cursing on the part of the younger librarians. The older ones seemed to accept it as inevitable. The younger ones? "What? Storytime has to be a multimedia presentation now?", one spat. I was fascinated by this unexpected split in the generations. To what does one attribute it? Most interesting.


At 2:14 PM , Anonymous Elizabeth Fama said...

This sort of program is really a lesson in computers for kids (getting them to click around and explore, which isn't bad), but it's not really a reading activity.

At 8:35 PM , Blogger web said...

They underestimate themselves, and the kids as well.

At 10:56 PM , Blogger John L said...

Interesting! The idea of making online books more "exciting" through animation (even the low-budget animation of Tumblebooks) seems to reach for the best of both worlds, but often ends up less compelling than either a real book OR an animated film.

Perhaps the younger generation is so awash in media already, they (we?) want to hold onto the real thing while it still exists?

At 11:36 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

I know. I was a little on the fence regarding the subject at the start, and I find myself still conflicted. It was a very odd sensation to see women my age growling at this "wave of the future" when they themselves were so immersed in new technologies. I guess nothing will ever replace a good old book in the end. Not even flashy graphics.

At 12:00 PM , Blogger Gregory K. said...

I am curious if you thought the Tumblebooks were entertaining or engaging or not. I haven't seen them yet, but I have found that I react less happily to computer entertainment that doesn't really fully utilize the potential of the computer. Mind you, teaching kids to navigate the computer is great, as is having them engaged with books at all, so I'm not meaning to slight these unseen things. But I recall... oh, what was it... (hold on. in my bookmarks)... Right:

Books Unbound

Were Tumblebooks at all like that? And if they were, do you think people would've reacted the same?

At 2:38 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

Well, here's the deal. Tumblebooks allows the viewer to just sit passively, not participating much in the experience as a book is read to them. Now there are options that allow you to manually read the book yourself or "turn the page", which is good. Still, I'm just as on the fence about this as yourself. I think I'm a touch more accepting than other librarians (I can see a use for this program beyond the library setting) but it's far from perfect yet.


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