Perhaps I will regret writing this.
I am proverbially and chronically always late to the technology party. Ipod? I have one in my desk drawer and another, newer, sleeker one that my husband bought me for our anniversary that mocks me as I wonder how to make a musical theatre mix to listen to on it. I know it is not that complicated, it just takes time I usually use to do the dishes so I am not writing amidst filth. And while I know my smart phone is much smarter than I am, I am kinda content to let it stay that way.
So you can imagine I was not exactly excited to see, upon taking the kiddos to the Boston Public Library’s Children’s Room for the first time, that there is, in that room, a computer. For preschoolers. Complete with a plastic Playskool console.
I was not excited at all.
Our first trip to the Children’s Room was a hot mess.
Until this summer I have kind of avoided the library.
While I am a semi functioning adult, my sisters and I harbor similar thoughts about the idea that we each might fall on the Spectrum. For those of you without kids in the 21st century, that is The Autism Spectrum. I kid you not. My younger sister thinks closer to Aspergers, but sometimes I am not so sure. One of us can’t stand rugs, while another feels compelled to travel with her own cleaning supplies. (Maybe that is more OCD, but anyway). We have issues with texture and sound and routine and all three of us have thinly veiled social issues that can seem quirky and charming at first but then twist into something a little removed from that once you spend time with us and realize that No, we really Are That Way. (try staying in a Super 8 with us and you will probably end up shooting yourself). So, while I love books, I also think libraries can be dirty places where I honestly could not see myself selecting germ ridden volumes to bring home to my toddler no matter how much Purell I have in the pockets of my diaper bag.
But we live on a budget.
And I have banned myself from Amazon for a while.
And my daughter’s attention span has outgrown many of the books that are sitting in our playroom, spine up like the mags say to do, in their bins.
On a slight whim, when I woke up one morning and decided I could not chase my one year old around Porter Square Books’ Story Hour again without buying myself a book as a treat for putting up with it all, I’d decided we were going to venture in to the Library. I looked up the activities for the day (Sing A Long! Yay!), and called my sister who practically lives at the Library as a PhD Candidate in American Studies to see if she’d like to meet up with us, and away we went.
Our family loves the BPL. We’re also snobs who smirk at the idea of seriously visiting any of the libraries that are more local to us. Instead of partying on Friday nights, when I was home from Iowa and my sister from Oberlin, all four of us would head to the BPL as a family. Once a Security Guard, when realizing we all looked a little alike as he saw us traipsing around separately, said to my mom: “They each got they own STYLE! One kinda funky, one kinda bookish, one kinda real petite sophistiCAT!” But the BPL feels onus to no one. You often can’t find what you’re looking for, get treated badly by librarians especially if you look like a high school student which I did until these two babies aged me twenty years, and if you want to get any real work done you have to plan research time around when the smelly people are in there. And a lot of smelly people visit the BPL, not all of them homeless, there are some pretty ripe rich people strolling around there, too.
True to BPL form, the supposed Sing A Long was not that day, but only on Fridays. Um, yeah, that was not what the website said, but I have encountered so many surly BPL librarians since getting a card there two decades ago, that I was barely phased.
The fact that there was no sing along, however, was the least of my problems.
Despite my bookish tendencies, the BPL did not have the soothing quality people might think it would have on kids whose mom is a writer. Rather, my two lovelies completely went nutter on my sister and I.
Each skimpered off in a different direction and neither seemed to realize the place was filled with books. That each might like.
And this was doubly so when they discovered The Computer.
As I tried in vain to look up some of the books I loved as a child, my 2.0 kids gravitated towards The Computer.
They even went so far as to squeeze their way onto the multi child bench with other kids whose nannies weren’t sure how to kick them off of there politely.
And so The Computer really began to grate on my nerves. What the hell was it doing in here with the slimy germy books I had finally made peace with enough to contemplate bringing in to my home? And if it was truly necessary as a teaching tool, couldn’t it live in its own room? Away from kids whose parents had taken them to the library precisely to get away from screens and animation in the first place? I could have just put The Little Mermaid on repeat and saved the Parking Garage money. While I know that many kids do not have access to computers at home and limited access to computers at school, I just can’t make my mind stretch and embrace this Children’s Room Computer.
Today, on our second time at the Library, to return our first stack of books and get more, I was even more disgruntled when that became the first place my daughter walked towards once we’d parked her sleeping brother in a corner next to a very loud babysitter and her even louder charges in the hopes that all the chatter would simulate Boylston Street and I’d be able to keep him strapped up longer.
While I was able to distract her enough to get a good fifteen books in our library bag, I had to come to the realization that mine was a losing battle. Once my son got loose, and I was then expending my time chasing after him instead of serenely reading Beatrix Potter to my daughter, said daughter felt the only thing to do was to get on The Computer and push buttons, since she can’t read yet anyway. (This is a very sore subject for her. She is very upset she can not read and gets very mad at the idea others, like me, can).
I suppose my point is—and I do have one—that The Computer in the Children’s room makes me sad. I was not the only adult in there doing battle with it. Even the librarian came over at one point to turn its volume down, chirping: “it just does what it wants and gets louder by itself all day long.”
Well then unplug it.
I know technology can be our friend. I know our kids will live in a world where they will have no choice but to embrace it and their Ipods will not mock them.
But I want that librarian to take her room back. And quick.