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old card catalog...

old card catalog…,
originally uploaded by 7-how-7.

Wasn’t the justifying premise for the internet and its use “ease” and “speed”? Information at our disposal, in seconds or microseconds, with a few tappings of some keys? And, true enough, the internet and technology does ease many tasks – I’ve never had the dubious pleasure of filing hundreds of cards a night, or typing 3 or more sets of cards for every acquisition, or attempting to wrangle complex collections into some trackable semblance of order – all thanks to the automation in place before I came to this profession.

But what about the things that are lost? Like cherrywood and the cantankerous/quirky personalities and preferences of each typewriter? The photo of this card catalog is sentimental, bringing to mind paper edges and discovered titles and subjects and books from when I was a kid standing at the card catalog and rummaging through for the curiosity of what I might find. I hated the transition to computer catalogs when I actually had to type in a keyword – I didn’t want to find anything specific, I wanted to see simply what was out there! But with specificities and limiters, the new card catalog demanded I have something particular in mind.

In the blurb tagging this photo, the photographer sentimentalizes a little himself, saying, “Does anyone even remember the dewey decimal system…or dewey himself? This card catalog is purely decorative, all the drawers are locked….” Is he, too, wistful, looking at these remnants of what used to be?

Perhaps, though, I am sentimental because I know only the frustration of the present and technology – how long it takes to upload a single picture from flickr.com to my blog when one small thing goes wrong, or the frustration of a kinesthetic/visual learner flapping back and forth between pages on a computer screen while desperately wanting to lay it all down on paper and spread it out on a desk. If I had the perspective of the fingers once working this card catalog, perhaps my response would be hallelujahing that the thing was finally locked…..

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It was much easier to forgive my ineptitude at ten than it is now at double and a half that. Many comments regarding “The 7 1/2 Habits of Successful Lifelong Learners” were that the principles were kind of no-brainers, or at least natural to people in the librarian profession, which is probably true. I am an addict to learning. An addict to new thoughts. An addict to ideas, theories, stories, words, re-tellings of old stories. But learning hurts now in a way that it never has before (literally, too – I peeled the skin off my finger and bruised my leg last week trying to teach myself how to play the spoons…. :0P). It used to be that I felt I had years and years to not only learn, but to become proficient at those learnings. My age is accumulating, but my proficiencies are not, and the “Jack-of-all-trades” quip is starting to rub a little whenever I think of it.

Maybe, however, I am approaching it all the wrong way – maybe the proficient or non-proficient designation isn’t the point at all. Maybe it is the joy of the experience which ought not be dependent on the end – I did have a mighty fine time with those soup spoons….

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I’d forgotten how much I like tangibility: the feel of paper, the diametric width of a Pilot Fine Point between my thumb and fingers, the ink of an index, and the sheer stationary-ness of a book bound to stay in one place.  I like pencil notes and post-its hanging like page-mane , stars, and circled quotes.  None of this can I do virtually.  Palimpsest-like, paper always caches some memory, holds some impression (utterly essential to me of the god-awful memory).  I think computers are supposed to do the same thing, except that, to me, computers are nearly inviolable – that code and techno-lingo slung like chastity belts around their sleek towers.  But a former roommate also called me a “Googlellectual”, which belies how often I take advantage of the ease of the internet.  So I guess it is the standard love/hate relationship without any intrigue – no passion, no plot, no interesting characters….

This, then is my goal for the 23 Things Project: weight the “love” side of the scale with as many new things as possible, finding things to learn to love and use in this new era of bloggerel-typings.

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Help me, I’m stuck!

The bummer about a really great book is that it’s SO HARD to find a good book to follow it.  Since finishing Those Who Save Us, I’ve spent a few hours skimming through a book that was not worth even that, I’ve picked up a few books and read a couple paragraphs, and I’ve browsed through some nonfiction, like “How to make yogurt,” but haven’t yet run across something that grabs me.  Anyone immersed in a good read?  Tell me about it, pleaseeee…. :0)

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If you had to give a rough estimate, how many pages would you say you’ve read in your lifetime thus far?  I was just thinking about the hundreds of books we read, the hundreds of books we forget, and the handful we remember.  Do you think we can ever really forget something we’ve read, or do you think that even if we’ve forgotten the specifics, something of every book is embedded in memory – much like the way ink seeps into paper and even after it fades with time, or is scraped away, there are still those bits that remain and color the composite of our life?

What are a few books you’ve read that met you in just the right moment, and won’t let you ever forget them?

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Resonate.  Thrum.  Pulse.  Stay.  Sustained as long as evanescence can be.  Just finishing Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum and enjoying a great conversation with my friend, Emma, both of which exercised some basic, essential muscle of being for me, those opening verbs catch all I can say about words at this moment.  

What an extraordinary thing Ms. Blum did with that book – telling the story of life in which nothing is ever okay, but cumulus clouds still sometimes have straight edges lit pink and gold before falling to rain.

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