Three teenagers are hanging out at the local skate park, discussing what to do with their summer vacations, which start next week. After talking about various summer jobs and their constant conflict with the general idea of a vacation, the three switch to musings about parties, hot dates, and general goofing off. The general consensus is that even parties and hot dates will get boring before the summer vacation is half over.
One of the kids (we will call him Chris) offers a suggestion, and judging from the shocked looks from the other two, I would assume it was a completely novel idea. Chris reaches into one of his over-sized pockets and pulls out a personal communicator, punches a few keys, and smiles at the other two while reading his screen. He starts jibbering excitely, his antics forcing the others to crowd around Chris and read over his shoulder. Chris calms down a bit, and stands up, motioning for the other two to back up a bit. With a sly grin, Chris punches a couple more keys and soon, I can hear a smooth voice running through a list of local activities and events. At the end of quite a long list, the voice says something about "being a service of the local library".
Chris closes his communicator and looks up at his friends, who start pestering him with questions immediately. He passionately explains that the local library recently launched a new initiative allowing people access to a host of information, including electronic catalog searching and community-wide events, etc. His friends begin to wonder when technology suddenly arrived at the archaic library, which once was a great source of "book relocation" and hide-and-seek games when their mothers weren't watching.
In the end, I find out that they decided to attend a summer volunteering and employment conference being hosted by the library to further explore their summer possibilities.
A month later, I happened to stop at the library and noticed them sharing a computer terminal, reading an electronic book and quietly discussing various aspects of the content. It surprised me that three teenagers were spending a sunny afternoon inside a library, and not out at the skate park or the beach. Back in my day, when you actually had to have a book to read, we were not very likely to sit for hours reading, much less discussing it. With a regular book, sharing with another reader was hard, removing an element of fun and companionship that literature has the power to give.
Did this story really happen? No, not yet, but it will. I have never met a kid, or teenager, who didn't want to know more about something. I also know many, many such young people who watch their lust for knowledge slowly die off, like a battery, slowly at first, then more rapidly, until one day, there is no more power left. Normal education will never fulfill every kid's desire to know, but it is the foundation to allow them to indulge in "information carnage" throughout their life.
I can see your eyes popping out of your head as you read that phrase, "information carnage", so let me explain. I use the term "carnage" because it evokes a strong emotional reaction while throwing the mind into a quandary. "Information carnage" is not the gruesome slaughter of a human beings, as "carnage" is commonly defined. It is the reckless aggregation and dissemination of knowledge within one's own desire to learn and expand horizens.
Children, teenagers, and even adults are prone to indulge in one extreme or another. A child indulges in birthday cake, without thought to the upset stomach that will surely come later, while a teenager or young adult indulges in extreme sports, double-devil-dares, and other forms of personal endangerment encapsulated by the cliche, "No pain, no gain." I will leave the examples of adult indulgances to your imagination, after all, I don't want to give anyone any ideas.
It is part of humanity, part of what defines us as a species, this drive to push the limits, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Lawyers collect legal precedents and court rulings. Accountants gather stock reports and financial statements. Marketing agents amass demographic reports. Housewives tally chore lists. Librarians sift through book reviews and publisher lists. Every profession is constantly involved in gathering and analyzation of information, whether "on the record" or mentally. Our brains are made to constantly aggregate, analyze, sort, and disseminate knowledge of all kinds. The recently coined phrase We are the blog is more true than many people realize - it is our core nature to blog. (For those of you not familiar with blogging, I just summed it up a moment ago in bold print.) Unfortunately, only recently has technology caught up to humanity's primal instinct to gather and share knowledge. No other known species has this drive for knowledge - it must mean we are meant to utilize it to benefit all species.
So, back to "information carnage" and how it affects one's life. As knowledge becomes more readily available to the masses, humanity will become smarter and smarter as a whole. Right now, we have a large deficit before us. Technology has given us the way, and we, as humans, have the will, now, we must do.
Literally hundreds of thousands of books and documents can be put into digital formats, available to the general public, a global library without regard to race, nationality, or gender. Knowledge is the property of humanity, not a select few people (often referred to as publishers). As this global library grows, people will have enjoyable activities to do, such as reading the same book with a group of friends. This creates less and less opportunity for aimless wonderings, particuarly for teenagers, aimlessness which often leads to disasters.
By giving teenagers (in particular) the ability to indulge some of their primal urges, which I call information carnage, we help them become more and more civilized and well-rounded as human beings. This is done without forcing them indoors or constantly monitoring their activities - nurturing at their level, as only their own internal instincts can define. By giving them access to electronic books, documents, horoscopes, reviews, news, and any other kind of information via personal communicators, people can sit at the beach, or at their favorite coffee shop with a couple friends - aggregating and consuming knowledge at the speed of their passion.
Libraries, as the historical centers of knowledge, are once again at the center of this picture. It is up to the libraries and educational institutions to empower the next generation, to give it life - to be The Origin of a Generation.