Sunday, December 10, 2006

Learning from an Ancient Library (part 2)

[From: Part 1] I'm not sure how "ancient" is the rain forest in MacRitchie. Regardless of its age, I was struck at how exploring the nature trail was like exploring a library (digital or physical).

MacRitchie Nature Trail

The "information" in the rain forest is contained within lots of "mediums". It's in the trees, the water, the soil, the animals, even the air. For instance, I learned (from an information sign) that the white-greenish patches on trees were a sort of fungi. Its presence generally meant a healthy rain forest. Its loss could be a signal of pollution.

But the rain forest isn't intuitive. You have to know what and where to look. It helps, and in some case it is required, that there are hints and instructions on what and where to look (just like how signages in libraries help with user navigation).

Here are two signs which I thought could be applied to the library's context:

1) I thought this was a very nice way of saying, "Please keep your voice down".
MacRitchie Trail Sign - Peace & Quiet

2) - This quote from Lowell Ponte says, "Whether providing the page you're reading, or the air you're breathing, trees enrich our lives in countless ways."
MacRitchie Trail Sign - Trees

Perhaps in the physical library, it might be good to post such quotations (from books and authors) on the shelves, tables and maybe the benches.

I also learned the value of having a forest ranger or a forest guide. Well, in my case, there wasn't one, to my loss. And I only needed one when I chanced upon something interesting. I would've felt uncomfortable to have a forest ranger follow me throughout.

As I explored the trail, my interest in what the rain forest had to offer increased. I was keen to learn more. I'm not sure exactly why that interest increased. I suspect the environment and surroundings contributed towards that mood to learn.

Obviously it would not be practical for the ranger/ forest guide to be stationed at every corner. If it weren't for the signs, I'd have missed lots of stuff. I wondered how much library users would have "missed" for each visit they make to the library. Like the nature trail, it's impractical to station staff at every corner.

But what if every sign had a sophisticated "Learn More/ ASK! a librarian" button to press, where more information could be sent to my email, or downloaded to my mobile phone. Could we have that feature in our libraries, on our shelves and tables?

I guess I'm just romanticising the rain forest. But then, don't we tend to do the same for libraries? :)

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  1. Anonymous4:00 pm

    You can take a librarian out of a library but you can't take the library out of the librarian. Its interesting to note your analogies of the great outdoors with living libraries. Actually many living museums are also nature parks, if you think about it.

  2. "can't take the library out of the librarian" -- Ha Ha, good one, Walter. I guess it's an occupational hazard of sorts, heh. Maybe NParks should market the nature reserves as Living Musuems.

  3. Anonymous11:38 pm

    lool funny sights - i luv singapore

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