A nice quote from Rick Salutin’s most recent Globe and Mail column, In praise of words, not books, which I actually read in a print edition of the newspaper this morning. Yes, we get two daily print newspapers, The Globe and The Toronto Star. My teenaged sons read them too.

Anyways, the point Salutin is making is that true knowledge and wisdom aren’t communicated by static media like books or articles, but by human interaction — conversation is key in that human culture is essentially oral. Of course, you can define oral culture to include a lot of technologically mediated forms of communication. I’m pretty sure Salutin would count Twitter and Friendfeed and Facebook are essentially part of an oral culture rather than a purely static or text-based one.

The full quote:

What humanizes libraries, for instance, isn’t books; it’s librarians! I once asked [author Alberto] Manguel, a very warm person, if he ever thought books might have an ugly downside. “No,” he said instantly. Yet his series in praise of reading opens with a recreation of the teenaged Manguel in Argentina meeting writer Jorge Luis Borges, who has gone blind and asks young Albie to read to him. The voiceover says he learned to love books at those sessions. But what you see onscreen is a living exchange of feeling between two people. It was speech that forged their bond, not print, and not books.

Of course, I’m biased, but I definitely think the best thing about libraries are the people who work there — the student assistants, the support staff and even the librarians.


  1. #1 Romeo Vitelli
    December 30, 2009

    You actually subscribe to print newspapers? That’s so quaint!

  2. #2 John Dupuis
    December 31, 2009

    Yes, Romeo. Two of them. I also buy CDs, watch network tv shows at the original airing time, subscribe to a couple of print magazines, listen to the radio, go to movies in the theatre, buy tv series on DVD and a whole bunch of other old media stuff.

    FWIW, a lot of these old ways of acquiring content are still the best way to make sure the creators get a little cash for their efforts.

  3. #3 Susan Gilbert
    January 2, 2010

    Thanks for your kind words about librarians. We often do not do enough to advocate for ourselves, so your support is greatly appreciated. I put a link to your blog on the Colorado school library blog. (Colorado Association of School Libraries) http://casl.wordpress.com/

  4. #4 John Dupuis
    January 4, 2010

    You’re welcome.

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