Yesterday, at the library…

or why I still love Ghostbusters the original movie.   There are simply some spots which on the surface suggest stuffy or sterile yet enter and-

do the 4:00 p.m. hustle.  Hardly a seat vacant on a Tuesday evening- my local library was booming, and representative of the multinational cultures in this city could be seen people of various backgrounds congregating in a single spot; children/seniors/nannies/parents/elementary through post secondary students/tutors/ readers/writers/ moving, shuffling, whispering and laughing- and at the odd table a little bit of pontificating too! Plus now that the regulations have changed, chomping and slurping and being careful to avoid spilling; the books, newspapers, and magazines placed just out of harm from the liquids-patrons being careful to value the space and its contents.

I sat and listened enjoying the hum; Libraries to me epitomizing the concept of “Democracy” – a public reminder that a community cares about learning, growing and changing,  this location reflecting both ties to its past and the upgrades any institution requires to continue to be relevant.  I remembered a post graduate course in which we as students were encouraged to “eavesdrop” and then to write a mini story  -the difference becoming real between actual participant observation and creative fiction  (what we produced was “fiction” not ethnography).  Actual participant observation involves the “other” ; rather than suggesting meaning, it questions meaning, and encourages communication; a give and take to produce a shared respectful evaluation of a process.  And I realized it was just this shared evaluation which I had been listening for, but unfortunately still discovered to be lacking.

I put the word “together’ in my company’s mandate before the word itself had become the latest buzzword; years of training, rigor and thought provoking examples of good teaching coming together to be expressed in the concise, yet boundless way a lesson will both contain a single purpose while opening the mind to entertain further ideas.  Good books do this- taking us out of ourselves for an instant, allowing us to enter into another’s space; strong readers know this and read for the combination of entertainment and lessons being shared which the novelist has offered.  When we “teach” reading skills we must ( me- offering a prescriptive!) – yes must remember how we as readers automatically make comparisons; almost instinctively comparing a new text to one read before, a character or plot problem to another story, a joke to a similar situation; it is the combination of novel and expected that we are searching for- the familiarity of a parallel universe- the one inside the story; the one inside our heads.  And we must (that word again!) recognize that the students we are working with may not have either the same experiences or any referents at all-

I began this blog entry with a mention of a movie- part of popular culture? perhaps…but I could wager and probably win a bet that not everyone has seen Ghostbusters the original, or would automatically recall the inside the library scene of books floating … do watch the whole movie – it may be hard for you afterwards to consider a library as a “static” space!

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