Posts Tagged ‘redbox’

What Public Libraries Should Be

February 2, 2010 8 comments

There is a debate going on about what public libraries should be.  So far, the librarians seem to be presenting a near united front, repackaging the library as a social place.  A place filled with programs such as speed-dating, Rock Band night, rent a person events, and more.  A place where you can rent newly released movies and videogames.  A place where, “Books are being pushed to the side figuratively and literally.” (source)  The few detractors from this mindset are generally portrayed as old, crotchety patrons who just don’t understand the times.

Well, I am a young librarian, and I don’t like where public libraries are headed.  To be clear, when I say young, I’m 23 years old.  Additionally, although I spent one summer working in a public library, most of my experience is in academic and medical libraries.  However, I think this puts me in the semi-unique position of understanding some of what public librarians deal with, but also being a member of the general populace they are seeking to serve.

I’ve made some rumblings about how I don’t agree with certain aspects of this modernization of the library.  The response from other librarians is generally a truly puzzled, “What’s wrong with it?”

What’s wrong with it?  When did public libraries turn into community centers instead of centers for life-long learning?  In a democracy, it is vitally important that the populace seeks to self-educate, to question, to delve into matters themselves.  A key element of that is literacy, and of course it is important to draw reluctant people into literacy in creative ways.  To this end, I’m supportive of libraries containing genre fiction, romance novels, graphic novels, etc…  However, whatever happened to the materials that truly make people think?  I used to frequent the public library, but last year, I just got sick of the junk I was seeing in the “nonfiction” section.  Autobiographies of the most recent reality star and not a single one of Albert Einstein, for instance.

Public libraries are not only supposed to encourage literacy but also thought and learning.  True, deep thought about serious issues.  I remember stumbling upon a book in high school in my public library about the controversy surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It presented a fair portrayal of multiple sides of the controversy, and I was floored to see such intelligent debate.  It made me think about the mores and ideals I was raised with, and questioning their own validity in much the same way.  This is the kind of experience literate patrons should be having at a public library, not digging through book after book about the last 20 years of pop culture and coming up empty-handed.  If I, a person trained in reference, can’t find thought-provoking books, what makes anyone think that untrained patrons will just happen to stumble upon them?

The public library is also supposed to be about equality.  Anyone who lives in the district can have a card and access the sources.  Now though we’re seeing libraries hosting various features that patrons must pay an additional fee to use.  An example of this is the Nevada libraries that now have Redbox vending machines.  Patrons must pay $1 a night, plus tax, to rent a DVD.  Some say this is fine, but I say, what about the homeless kids who come into this place that purports to support the idea that educating yourself is a right, only to see more things they can’t afford?  I’m sure it is disheartening, and it is contrary to the principles of a public library.

It sickens me to see the public library going from a place revered in the community as a place of literacy, learning, and equality to a bastion of the non-thinking, pop culture junk we’re fed by those who don’t want us to actually better ourselves.  You may as well be handing out Soma with the library cards, and if you don’t know what Soma is, try reading Brave New World.

Movie Review: District 9 (2009) South Africa

February 2, 2010 6 comments

Alien spaceship over "no humans allowed" poster.Summary:
In this alternate history, 20 years ago an alien spaceship came to a stop over South Africa.  It appears that they broke down over Earth.  They appeared sickly and malnourished, so the South African government set up a shanty town for them just outside of Johannesburg.  Now tensions are increasing between the South Africans and the aliens who they call Prawns.  The government hires a corporation called Multi-National United to come in and forcibly move them 25 kilometers from Johannesburg.  The leader of the project soon discovers the Prawns aren’t exactly what the media has laid them out to be……and neither is Multi-National United.

I knew as I was watching it that I was going to really like this mockumentary.  Having an alien landing that is neither hostile nor a diplomatic mission from a more advanced species is really creative, as is having the humans hem and haw over what exactly to do with the aliens.  The aliens wind up in no-man’s land, stuck due to red tape and a general lack of consensus.

I also enjoyed that the movie doesn’t establish certain groups as all evil or all good.  There are individuals within the South Africans, the Prawns, and the MNU who are good or evil, just as it actually is in real life.  The main characters are complex, trying to do their best when facing tough decisions.

Now, as for the movie elements, the special effects are amazing.  I kept forgetting that the Prawns were CGI and not actors.  The Prawns’ weapons are exactly what you want out of a scifi film–based on real world weapons, but decidedly more awesome.

There were a few pieces of loose plot that bothered me.  A non-spoiler example is the fact that the Prawns and the humans understand each other, and it’s not explained how that came about or how difficult it might be.  It almost seems as if just anyone can understand the Prawns’ clicking.  Another example is it’s never explained if there are female Prawns or if they are hermaphrodites or what.

A lot of people say that this is about race relations.  I disagree.  While it’s easy to draw out comparisons, I don’t think that’s the main issue in the film.  I think District 9 is more about how groups of people affiliated by nationality interact, and how people do the best they can given the circumstances.

I highly recommend District 9 to scifi and non-scifi lovers alike.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Redbox

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