Editorial: Island Free Library is a place of quiet learning

Sun, 02/24/2013 - 3:10pm

Island Free Library is a place of quiet learning

A public library is a place of quiet contemplation. But as libraries transform themselves from a place almost exclusively devoted to books and other publications, we can expect — and in fact encourage — the inclusion of more modern forms of entertainment and diversion.

The Island Free Library — one of the island’s great non-natural resources — has done a particularly adept job at incorporating the old and the new. Computers for public use sit in quiet corners, and residents who wish to sit with their own laptops exist comfortably alongside the stacks of books.

So it was only natural that the library would place computers in a room exclusively devoted to young people. It’s the primary mode of learning for anyone under 15: it’s not uncommon to see kids deftly running their fingers over the surface of an iPad or other handheld to easily navigate the most complex computer programs that baffle many adults.

When Librarian Kristin Baumann noticed that some of the kids using the public computers were devoting their time to violent video games, she decided to temporarily halt access to them. She said that the games were altering the mood of the room, and were disrupting the normally tranquil atmosphere of the building. That temporary hiatus has become more permanent, and Baumann said she has heard from some parents who applaud the move.

And so do we.

We have to recognize, of course, that people are able to make their own decisions about the appropriateness of these video games. We’re not advocating they be banned, nor do we want to have the move by the library be interpreted as punitive or as a negative reflection on anyone who chooses to play this type of game.

But the library is, as we said, a place of quiet learning. It’s a public space where community values need to be accommodated. Any move, no matter how small, that is in keeping with the core values of this public institution should be supported, and we’re happy to do that here.