Notes on Hope

In the mornings: I am old and worn out, as Admiral James T. Kirk said in the second Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan.

In the mornings at my desk: I read e-mails, news, and online editorials about the dire state of higher education and libraries. An article touting a new library at North Carolina State University should have been encouraging: beautiful design, integrated technology, high use and appreciation by users. Yet no books or librarians are visible at first. (Of the more than one-hundred-million-dollar cost, the state paid almost 90%. Are you reading this, Governor?) Another article enthusiastically surveyed the flood of educational technology available; another, the variety of library-related software and content-provider products I must keep up with.

I did not go to library school to be a software manager.

Why am I not suicidal?

The composition students I’ve been teaching this week were back today for a lab, looking for research sources and navigating call numbers. While the “joy of learning” may be an overstatement in this resource-poor environment, the flashes of sudden understanding and appreciation of their work restored my optimism.

Another source of optimism is my former piano teacher, himself a young graduate student, who sent me an excited e-mail yesterday afternoon about his teacher’s recital that night. Why not attend?, I thought. The pianist told his audience of discovering Prokofiev’s war sonatas at age 14. He didn’t bother to explain why we should like classical music or analog instruments; he knew he didn’t need to. The only two cell phones I could see in that audience were recording the concert. Afterward, a couple of young bushy-haired men were humming a theme from the sonata’s final movement.

Despite the death of his best friend in Star Trek II, Kirk isn’t finally discouraged by his second adventure with Khan. Having met his son for the first time and witnessed the creation of a new planet, Kirk said “I feel young.”

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