October 24, 2015

Look Up! Look Out!

Call me old.  Call me old-fashioned.  Call me old-school.  Call me and I will answer because to one degree or another, each of these descriptors is an accurate calling card for yours truly.

Old?  Well, I’ll soon be sixty, so I’m not sure what other age descriptor would be more accurate.  Old-fashioned?  Sure.  I still prefer a good home-cooked meal to even the best take-out.  Old-school?  Positively! My car doesn’t have a built-in GPS, and “blue tooth” conjures up images of our sweet granddaughters in the huckleberry patch.

I do have a laptop, a tablet and a cell (albeit not-so-smart) phone.  I don’t do laundry on a washboard, and my blender has more horsepower than a small outboard motor.  So, technology is a part of my everyday life, and for many reasons, I’m very grateful for that.

But, as an “oldie” of one kind or another, I am concerned about the ever-increasing presence technology has in our lives – and specifically, in our hands.  It seems no matter where I go, I see the heads of most folks looking downward to some device.  Tapping, checking, swiping, checking, checking, checking.  And I admit I have to squelch my urge to whisper, say or shout, “Look up! Look out!”
Look up and out – to the world that awaits each of us. When we’re looking down, down, down, let’s think about what we’re not seeing, appreciating or valuing – gorgeous trees, stormy clouds, and yes, the faces of our fellow human beings.  We must look up and look out.

Recent studies indicate more and more children are spending less and less time in the natural world, in part because they or their adult do not want to be away from their technology at hand.  Seriously? Are we really okay being less connected to our surrounding environment because we somehow feel more attached to a device?   Yikes!  Are we willing to forget that not only does the environment need us, we also need the environment – desperately? 

Studies also show by being in nature our physical and mental responses change.  Being in the natural world can calm us, inspire us and nurture our very being.  If we as adults are not putting ourselves there, our children have no role models for the importance of these places and spaces.  If we are looking down, down, down, swiping, tapping, checking, checking, checking, we are telling our children what we value without having to a say a word to them.

So as adults, let’s make a conscious decision to put down our device(s) frequently and do so in front of our children.  And then, let’s talk with them about why we’re doing that.  Let’s let them know how important it is to look up and look out, let alone share precious time together, without a ding, buzz, clang or song-alert interrupting it all. 

And to be clear, I’m not proposing we abandon all technology.  I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  I want us to be diligent in our choices with our babies (of all ages), and help them connect with our world each and every day, sans technology. 

And that includes all of us at the library, too.  We’re all about technology and helping you get books downloaded and research questions answered.  But we’re also all about relationships with our patrons.  We’re committed to giving you the personal service you deserve.  Stop by. You will see us looking up and out. 
Kathleen Ahern
Children's Librarian

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