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It's a Library!

By Jonah Raskin

IN UNDERSTANDING Media , Marshall McLuhan-- "Mr. Mass Media"--persuaded me that we live in the "Information Age," and in deference to McLuhan, I suppose I ought to accept the fact that we now have "Information Centers," including the new Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center at SSU. The trouble is, I'm troubled by the idea of an "Information Center" in a way I was never troubled by the idea of a "library."

"Information Center" sounds like the sort of buzz term that's used to pry money from tight-fisted Sacramento politicians. "Library" sounds old-fashioned--a relic of ancient times. Of course, I'm attached not only to the concept of the "library"--which has served humanity for ages--but to my own memories of libraries all over the world, from New York and London to Mexico City and Hanoi.

I love libraries, and I love the smell, the look, and the feel of books.

You can imagine, then, how peeved I was that no one said a word about books--at least not from the podium--at the recent ceremony to mark the opening of the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center, though there was talk of computers and though SSU President Ruben Armiñana spoke eloquently about the lowly, ubiquitous pencil, as itself and as a metaphor for things much bigger. Sonoma County's Poet Laureate Don Emblen, who attended the ceremony along with dozens of other notables, noticed the omission of books from the speeches, and it troubled him as it troubled me.

Of course, like Emblen, I'm bookish.

I write books, read them, review them, and assign them to students who, increasingly, don't bother with books. Students are on the Web, of course, and while the Web is a wonderful place to be, it doesn't beat books. I've searched online and I've gone hunting in books, and books are still the best source of information.

It's too bad no one said that at the ceremony.

I suspect it's too late to lose the name "Information Center" and go back to "Library." And it's probably too radical to stage a "read-in" to remind the campus that books are indispensable. But maybe students will come for the computers and stay for the books, without a "read-in."

As far as I'm concerned, the new building will always be the Jean and Charles Schulz Library. I'm sure Marshall McLuhan would want it that way, and I bet Snoopy would, too.

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From the October 19-25, 2000 issue of the Northern California Bohemian.

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