Tech and Tornadoes

Severe Weather and 10 Sacred Cows

Well, I had planned to write my next post about our school’s experiment with a Tech-Free Day this week; a day, our Headmaster explained, to “examine both the benefits and costs of technology in education and daily life.” But since the weather-people chose that day to predict a possible reenactment of Twister in our area, we postponed the experiment (because we needed our technology to communicate in case of severe weather dangers; point taken, Mother Nature).  But thinking about our (already, in less than a generation) certainty that we *must* have our technology available all the time, and the accompanying belief that high-tech is always better than low-tech (more on that next time), also made me wonder about other assumptions we adhere to rather blindly.

Below are the top-10 sacred cows (mine and others’) I am challenging in my library between the end of this year and the beginning of the next. What are yours? And might you ultimately agree with the idea (falsely attributed to Mark Twain*) that “sacred cows make the best hamburgers”?
Library Sacred Cows (in ascending order of aghast-ability [I made that word up]):

10) Whispering
9) Stamping every book inside front & back covers and on page 51 (?!) with School/Library name
8) Keeping old prize-winners just because they are prize-winners
7) Print encyclopedias
6) Security tags in books and beeping gates at the doors
5) Drink (and Food!) in the Library
4) The concept that audio books don’t count as “real” books
3) The concept that graphic novels don’t count as “real” books
2) Setting limits on the number of books children can check out
and–drumroll please–here’s the hamburger I’d like to serve up first:
#1) Fines for overdue books

You will notice that I did not include the Dewey Decimal system in my bovine lineup. I still like my sacred cows grouped by subject classification (but that is a topic for another day).
*Thank you, Garson O’Toole. You may have heard about his site on NPR this week. Quote Investigator ( is devoted to tracking down the real people behind mis-attributed well-known quotes. He has a new book out as well: Hemingway Didn’t Say That: The Truth Behind Familiar Quotations.

15 thoughts on “Tech and Tornadoes

  1. Thanks for sharing your review, Allison! What a shame that the book wasn’t as well-written as it could be; too bad that interest in a subject (and even skill at research) doesn’t necessarily go hand-in-hand with being able to write well about the subject! I haven’t read the book yet, but agree that it would be interesting from a reference standpoint. I also found his website a bit disappointing: it was rather difficult to navigate if you are looking for a specific quotation or person. For random browsing, it was fine.

  2. I love this! You definitely need to think about your space and what works for your community. I am happy that for most of these, I’m not only in total agreement, but also feel like they are things libraries are moving towards. I was so excited when I interviewed at my school and heard they don’t do overdue fines. My boss asked me if I wanted to spend hours chasing down 30 cents or if I’d rather have the books get used. Option two, please! Update us on your progress.

    • Thanks, Christina! I am excited about the opportunity to make changes that better reflect our mission as a library and a school (empowering students to make their own choices, fostering community and a love of knowledge.)

  3. My only point of divergence is with the concept of “tattle tape” on books – one school I know has it as a ‘gentle reminder’ to students about to walk out without checking out their books. Why do I think checking books out is important? We had one student take two books that were on reserve (because five students were using the same two books for their research project and sharing was important) and prevent the other students from using those resources. Now, the mere presence of the tape/beep is no guarantee that wouldn’t happen, but it *would* remind them they’re taking books that are needed by others and it would be public (so perhaps peer pressure would encourage them to stop and bring the books back). And yes, that’s probably impossibly idealistic of me but… it’s spring and hope springs eternal when the sun shines!

    • That is a very good point, Laura, and I think it could be a good reminder. I am guessing that after doing that to his/her fellow students one time the students themselves might help with policing that policy!

  4. Love your list!
    1) Aghast-ability is a really awesome word that needs traction!
    2) Stamping my library’s name (with address) on the title page has protected status in my library as we fairly regularly get calls from our local public library informing us that our books have been dropped in their book return slots. We’ve even had one or two that have been left on airplanes that got mailed back to us! People, apparently, want to help lost books get home almost as much as lost pets…
    3) We got rid of our security gate. Maintenance contract cost and the cost of tattle tape were so high that I figured we were better off using the money to buy new books and replace books that walked. 3 years hence, we have had very few books go missing. Bigger challenge is for us to get kids to use the books that we have…

    • Thanks, David! Glad you support my neologism. (Though my friend Wikipedia says that creating one’s own words is a sign of mental illness. [See: “Bigly”])
      But think of the applications! “This situation is highly aghastable,” or even “the aghastability-factor on that one is through the roof!”

      Good point about the name for return purposes. We, too, receive books in the mail from public libraries. We have barcode stickers on the front of our books with our library name; I wonder if that is enough?

  5. Pingback: on exploring emerging information formats… [edited] | Independent Ideas

  6. According to your Sacred Cow List, I’m uncertain if you are saying that you support food and drink in your library. I currently allow food and drink in our library however, I am reconsidering that policy for next year because I find too much discarded trash throughout the library. It’s difficult to police the offenders. If you do allow food and drink, do you have a problem with trash? Any ideas to eliminate the problem? I already have a water fountain within my library and trash cans throughout. Thank you.

    • Thanks for your comment, Nicole. We do allow food/drink in the library, but it is usually in a monitored situation, such as after-school care with staff or homework groups with parents. Otherwise, we try to limit it to bagged snacks and personal drink containers. We have an after-school program that uses the library, and I think they have helped to train the students in proper snack behavior since they monitor the students carefully. I’d be inclined to revoke the privilege for a while if you’ve had problems; perhaps when you reinstate snacks students will help police one another, so as not to lose it again.

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