Stumbling into a world you don’t know

Here’s an article on the work that archivists do. It’s on the long side, but I found it very interesting. I especially appreciated this:
“Lannon said that Google had changed the way people sought information. “They only want information based on the information they think they want,” he said. As a rule, he said, archivists at the library should give you the box you’ve asked for — but also suggest another box. There are fewer opportunities, now, to stumble into a world you don’t already know. “It’s important to look outside of your own existence.”

I supervise study hall at the high school library every day. There are a lot of rules about what the kids are supposed to be doing or are not supposed to be doing, and most of them are related to the desire of the leadership that the kids not waste their time, but be working productive, school/education oriented tasks. One student had recently been violating them fairly regularly while goofing on the computer, and I had him step away from the computer and sit at a desk and start copying words and definitions from a dictionary. I chose an older dictionary. It wasn’t entirely arbitrary, English is his second language and he speaks well but sometimes has surprising gaps in his vocabulary. He’s a funny kid, by which I mean entertaining, clever, smart. I like him. the feeling is undoubtedly *not* reciprocated.

Anyway, he accompanied his dictionary work with illustrations and commentary. The first side of the page (a small page, I tore one out of my own notebook which is half-sized) had comments like, “Is this related to school? No. It’s stupid.” “Peter Pan, a boy who never grew up. Ha. Really educational, right?”
The second side of the page he got engaged in spite of himself, and to illustrate a definition related to boats, he drew a lovely fleet of ships and wrote, “Maybe this is interesting and educational after all. Why don’t we learn about boats in school? That would be interesting.”

He would still rather use google, a single exercise that was more or less a kind of punishment isn’t going to make him a convert. Still, I hope that some day he looks back and remembers that spark, that moment when his interest was engaged by something he stumbled across by accident.

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