Books still worthy of time

By Katie Paulson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 1, 2005

As a girl, I grew up longing for the adventurous spirit of Harriet and the posh lives of the Wakefield twins. Unfortunately, these idols existed purely in fiction, slipped between the covers of "Harriet the Spy" and "Sweet Valley High."

The power of books seems immeasurable to some; others find them boring and acrimonious. Years of assigned readings have caused some students to turn their noses at pleasure reading. Yet, college life serves as the opportune time for some to embrace the pages they once rebuked or for others to reclaim the passion of their youth.

When I was 7, I discovered that the Phoenix Public Library's limit for checking out books was 30. From then on, I tried to always reach that goal. Summer reading programs motivated me further; who could resist a bookmark of the Phoenix Suns' gorilla?

Eventually, the rigors of public education took their toll and soon library visits decreased. High school courses dried that well further with the promotion of classics, Shakespeare and Barbara Kingsolver. But these experiences didn't mar my desire to continue reading. Stepping into the UA's Main Library, the human senses are inundated with the sights and smells of the knowledge contained in the texts.

However, advancements in technology have caused some to view the physical act of reading as passť. Their argument centers on the premise that the Internet and other forms of electronic data provide faster results in a more efficient, easier to understand manner.

For instance, research conducted in the library using books, microfilm and other written mediums can be time-consuming, tedious and sometimes unhelpful.

The pro-technology crowd views Internet-based research as the epitome of appropriate research. Search engines like Google, Yahoo and Dogpile have reduced the work previously needed to hunt out sources. In other areas, these same individuals believe technology reigns superior to books when it comes to accessibility.

Students can read national and international newspapers online instead of a print copy. Short stories, plays and poems are posted on Web pages, online scholastic journals and other Web-based protocols for distributing literature.

While utilizing resources such as the Internet may save students time, it may also detract from the actual learning process. Students can simply cut and paste material found online to include in their work. Therefore, they partake in a process of regurgitation (and in some cases plagiarism).

Clearly, this digitalization has its advantages. However, it also leaves a great deal to be desired from the student. In practical terms, there's a stronger lack of fulfillment.

Upon completion of a book, one has the ability to physically close it. That sound resonates as a symbol of victory or satisfaction, depending on how one views it. Yet people can't derive the same sense of closure from the computer. Closing the browser window does not compare. People close and open browser windows often when on the computer; one click is meaningless.

If students decide to conduct research using library materials such as books, periodicals, anthologies and more, they have to dig through vast amounts of information to find support for their arguments.

When students manually insert the source into their document, they absorb the information on a greater level because they are physically reproducing the text. The University of Iowa's Academic Advising Center notes that the "act of writing causes you to process the information and consider it a second time."

This may cause an "of course" response, but it's one that remains overlooked during the college experience. Students focus all their attention on completing the task at hand without realizing what an opportunity they have to learn during the experience.

Granted, some topics seem drier than others, but the amount of time and energy devoted to one paper can equate to a lot of information. College serves as the place where students have free reign to gather knowledge from sources previously unavailable to them.

For example, the Main Library features a Chinese studies and Middle East collection. Resources like these allow us the ability to physically interact with relics of history. This can't be duplicated on the computer screen.

Perhaps one day the library will be shed of its books for even newer technology that looms on the horizon. But until that day, students should embrace the texts and resources available to them during their stint at college.

Who knows? Books could become the next extinct species.

Katie Paulson is a junior majoring in English and political science. She can be reached at