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The Fountain of Knowledge

By Greg Harris

Record knowledge and transfer it to future generations

Greg's The ability to record knowledge and transfer it to future generations may well be the human species' most important trait. Jameco customers in particular seem hungry for knowledge, ideas and solutions that can tickle their senses so that each of us can contribute to our collective wisdom.

The repository for our knowledge has historically been entrusted to libraries. But in this Internet age... is the library still relevant today? I think libraries are still relevant and, in fact, they've frequently embraced new technology at a faster rate than many of their users.

I'm far from a book worm, but I've connected and reconnected with this institution at least half a dozen times in my lifetime and every time I'm reintroduced, I'm amazed to see how often the library embraces technology. Like an old friend, I've recently reconnected and the relationship has never been better.

Thomas Jefferson famously said, "I cannot live without books."

As a child I could definitely live without books and was frankly more fascinated by TV, movies and toys. Sometimes, though, I needed more in my life and since my home was located nine miles from "civilization," on a weekend my goal was to get a ride into town to go to the shopping mall. I quickly learned that asking my Dad for ride to the mall didn't work well, but if I asked for a ride to the library I almost always got a "sure."

So we went to the library and I would dutifully look at a few things until my father became engrossed in something and, almost as an afterthought, I said I was going to pop over to the mall and would meet him back here a little later. This ruse worked well for many years, but along the way I actually found that the library could be an interesting place.

By the time I reached college, the library played a very different role. No longer was the building a source of amusement, but it had transformed itself into one of pain. This is where energetic students came to coat themselves with a thick lacquer of stress. I worked past the pain once I discovered that while asking a girl on a date felt awkward; asking her to "go to the library to study" was relatively easy.

After college I had no need for libraries for a long time. It was almost about 10 years later and almost by accident that I rediscovered the library as a second office. It had everything I needed to get my work done: a comfortable desk, high ceilings, fast wireless internet access and something that my office didnĂ­t have... a way to avoid all interruptions and I continued to be fascinated by how other people used the library.

This month, once again, the library transformed its role in my life. I purchased an electronic book reader. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the e-reader also provided a new path back into the library - a virtual path. From the comfort of my own home I borrowed (downloaded) electronic books free of charge. I was fascinated by the software that managed the digital rights and keeps track of where the book is downloaded only allowing one user to have access at a time. Unlike their physical cousins, with e-books there are no missing pages, coffee stains or margin notes.

The library's electronic collection is still growing but there was a reasonable selection of current and classic. I opted to start on the classic side as I rekindled my relationship with the library. Uncle Tom's Cabin was a book I could barely remember from my childhood, but one that as an adult I thoroughly enjoyed anew. This book is so well crafted and did a great job of capturing the emotions of that day – emotions that would ultimately change history. On the other hand, Swiss Family Robinson was a disappointment and one of the few times in my life when I've said, "the movie was better."

To quote Henry David Thoreau, "How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book." In my case I feel like I'm dating the library as well.